“I’ve dreamed a very beautiful dream” is the slogan of Lee Kui Kyung, director of a Seogwipo City-based social welfare organization called Peace Village that makes sausages using local ingredients. In an interview with Jeju World Wide, she said she is accomplishing her dream step by step.
Her dream, which is now very much a reality, is to make top-quality sausages and related ham-derived products. Peace Village sausages are made with real pork and a variety of vegetables all of which are sourced from Jeju. The island is, of course, famous for its unpolluted land, water and air. All the vegetables (such as peppers, garlic, mushrooms) are planted nearby as seedlings in the spring. Lee considers the produce they use in the same way as a mother would do the shopping to feed her family. This is why the brand name of the sausages is “Jeju Mom.” Similarly, she’s encouraged by all the “family members” of Peace Village to think this way.
Peace Village was established in the year 2000 as a social welfare corporation. Since then Lee has hired people with intellectual disabilities to work in her kitchens. The goal of this scheme is for members to benefit from a form of vocational rehabilitation, helping them to take that all-important step into mainstream society.
Peace Village produces homemade ham and sausages in accordance with the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) of the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and ISO 22000 Food Safety Management System food regulations. The products are made with antibiotic-free pork and chicken and fresh vegetables from Jeju farms. The village insists on the “5 nothings” (no preservatives, no artificial food coloring, no artificial seasoning, no soybean filler and no sodium nitrite).
Peace Village was subsequently certified a social enterprise in 2008. Defined as a company or organization which performs business activities while promoting social services such as jobs to vulnerable groups like those in low-income brackets, the elderly, the handicapped, long-term jobless, stay-at-home mothers, and others. A social enterprise also reinvests its profits for the benefit of social welfare. According to commercial law, this must entail two-thirds of profits. Other aims of social enterprise groups include the development of remote and rural areas of the local community, as well as to promote the public interest and install a democratic decision-making process.
Director Lee said that it was important that everyone think about the real meaning of the social enterprise. Peace Village pursues many important social goals, but she specifically pointed to the promotion of social harmony and mutual prosperity of the local community.
“Companies want to grow fast and to have ever greater profits,” Lee said. “To do so they encourage consumer spending. But then we won’t have anything to pass down to future generations. I think there is no future for companies which choose to ignore environmental issues, and don’t think about co-existence with their community.”
Lee studied nursing, and worked as a school health nurse at a school for the disabled. During her time as a nurse and as a CEO, she described how she had seen society’s prejudices against people with disabilities. Lee has therefore looked to empower these people as a group and help them to be acknowledged as members of society. She pointed out that, by-and-large, the lives of disabled people are determined by non-disabled people. Her exposure to the prejudice she saw around her in society was very painful, she said, adding she used this as the motivation to establish what has now become a thriving business.
Out of the 37 employees of Peace Village, 22 are intellectually handicapped. Working hours depends on each individual’s needs so Lee has arranged the work schedule to be very flexible and it can vary from 4 to 8 hours.
In addition to employing people with severe disabilities and engaging with those from other vulnerable groups, Peace Village has a number of other goals. These include: looking to reinvigorate Jeju Island’s local economy through the exclusive purchase and use of local products; contributing to the local economy directly and creating social value through the production of safe, locally-sourced food. Since 2011, Peace Village products have been developed under a technical partnership with Kinsky Fleischwaren in Germany.
While Peace Village’s sales now top 800 million won a year, the early years were very difficult, according to Lee. The organisation had to struggle against social prejudices of people with disabilities making quality food products. To learn how to make sausages, Lee apprenticed at Kinsky Fleischwaren’s factory in Germany, getting to work at 4 a.m.
However, now Peace Village is respected for both its products and its ethos. Its unwavering principles about food manufacture has been shown to influence consumer’s choice. Currently 30 percent of its production is consumed on Jeju island and 70 percent supplied to the mainland. Peace Village has a plan to extend its reach later this year, into markets in Japan and Hong Kong.
“Jeju Mom” products can be purchased directly from Peace Village (with a 10-percent discount), at Hanaro Mart in Ara-dong in Jeju City, Pyoseon and Namwon, as well as at the first floor of the Jeju Province Small and Medium Business Center. It is possible to make purchases on their Web site or by telephone (064-794-6277), where delivery service is offered.