International Conference on Cooperatives Community Development

Korea Conference

At a ceremony in the National Assembly of South Korea, Fr. Greg MacLeod , senior researcher at the Tompkins Institute of Cape Breton University was named an honourary citizen by the governor of Jeollabuk province in South Korea. It was part of a week-long international conference on the role of cooperatives in local economic development and job creation. MacLeod was the keynote speaker. Besides the launching of two of his books translated into Korean, MacLeod delivered a series of lectures in different parts of South Korea. MacLeod’s book on the Mondragon cooperative complex in Spain has also appeared in Japanese.

A development agency of the Korean government had asked MacLeod to assemble a team to introduce new ideas into the system especially devoted to rural areas suffering from depopulation. Leaders in the Korean government are concerned with Seoul growing to over eleven million people and smaller areas in decline. The MacLeod team consisted of Inazio Irizar from the Mondragon cooperative complex in Spain, Sara Depredi from the multi million dollar Trentino cooperative complex in Italy and Gerard Perron, former director general of the Regional Development Cooperative of Quebec.

The Mayor of Seoul hosted a panel and said that culture and history must take precedence over uncontrolled growth of the cities. Without their culture and traditions life would be superficial. Therefore, they must devise programmes to encourage growth outside of the capital region.

Most cooperatives in Canada were established as services to consumers. However, MacLeod has claimed that the greatest need in the future will be multi functional community cooperatives with the main purpose of job creation. MacLeod quotes Alex Laidlaw of Port Hood who became secretary of the Cooperative Union of Canada. Laidlaw said the cooperative movement must develop new multifunctional business structures to respond to community needs if they are to be relevant to the future. Laidlaw made this statement at a development conference at Acadia University in 1972.

MacLeod presented Mondragon and Trentino as excellent examples of multifunctional cooperatives focused on job creation. Mondragon is mainly in the industrial sector in such areas as auto parts. Trentino is agricultural. Both employ thousands of people and have billion dollar sales.

MacLeod was also special guest of Hansalim. The publishing arm of this Korean cooperative complex published his books. This complex cooperative has succeeded in linking farmers and consumers in one commercial system. Usually producers want higher prices and consumers want lower prices. Based on the principle of harmony, this cooperative complex focuses on mutual benefits. Producers and and consumers are united in one business. All products are environmentally friendly and they carry out research and public information. Besides assisting families in North Korea they have a program to aid refugees in Afghanistan. Organized 12 years ago, they now have 78 consumer stores and 2000 producer members. The majority of their staff is under the age of 35.

Greg MacLeod is founder of New Dawn Enterprises, a multi-functional cooperative enterprise in Cape Breton as well as of BCA Investment Cooperative.

In the picuture is governor Wan-joo Kim making the official presentation in the Memorial Hall of the National Assembly