The Supermarket is a renewable energy business cooperative, designed to make profit by selling energy-saving home appliances, installing micro-solar panels with financing packages and giving extracurricular classes on climate change and energy to secondary school students. The cooperative now employs five full-time staff, all mothers, and strictly keeps to the founding motto ‘make profit from energy transition to renewable energy in the community’.
“We could continue doing this for last eight years because our approach was to establish a community energy business model and we never worked for free. If we did it as public service and one-time campaigns, we will not be able to penetrate the mind of busy and practical Seongdaegol community,” explained Kim.
Visitors to Seongdaegol notice the relatively large number of female elderly population. The Seongdae traditional market is crowded with old women in shopping trolleys. The alley ways between houses could become an open kitchen for mothers when making Kimchi in a large volume.
“There used to be a big traditional market along the main road, but it lost its vitality. However, the traditional ‘Maeul’ or village community spirit of mutual help lives on,” said Park Il-woo the owner of Daeryuk bookstore in Seongdae Market.
With this community bond, women gave birth to three energy cooperatives in the community, middle school, and traditional marketwith 600 members. The Seongdaegol model inspired the Seoul metropolitan government to officially launch the Energy Self-reliant Villages Project and One Less Nuclear Power Plant policy in 2012.
Kim So-young emphasised the importance and benefits of women’s leadership in the community-level movement. “Mothers hold the remote control and the knife. Which means they can control day-do-day energy and material use,” said Kim So-young.
For 2019, the Seongdaegol community is looking at the first-ever Korean youth climate litigation. About 50 youths and nine lawyers are studying the similar cases from US and Japan. The decision came after local legislative election in June 2018 when young Koreans learnt that not a single candidate addresses climate change issue in their manifesto.
Unlike in 2011, the youth climate litigation team now has support of members of environmental NGO, Seoul metropolitan government, the Green Party, and presidential advisory board. After the fundraising event ‘Hotter the Love, Cooler the Earth’, the team raised over $10,000.
The litigation team foresees challenges in every step of the process. The social stigma of anti-government civic group toward youth is another concern of supporting adults.
“We are talking about possible consequences based on our experience in history, but the youth are very cool and fully committed because the climate change is about their future and a matter of justice,” said Kim.