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Stories of Change: How South Korea’s MiRiNae sharing movement is helping the community

Author: Jinhwa Park, Secondee
Published Date: 29 February 2016

At SIX we think it is important to tell stories where social innovation has impacted people’s lives for the better. Our Stories of Change series tells you the stories that inspire us from around the world.

‘Suspended coffee’ - To leave a cup of coffee in a coffee shop for the homeless or disadvantaged.

The ‘Suspended Coffee’ movement came about over a century ago, in Italy, and was designed as a social movement to provide coffee for people who could not afford it for themselves. This practice has now been widely introduced and enthusiastically carried out in Korea since 2013. Adopting the name ‘MiRiNae’ movement, more than 430 stores across the country have participated since ‘Whoo Whoo coffee shop’ led the way, and joined as the first store in May 2013. Then followed ‘The Happy plus store’, located in Seoul City Hall, and today there are MiRiNae stores located in Japan, Sri Lanka and the U.S.A.

Jun-ho Kim, the representative of MiRiNae Movement HQ (NGO), has benchmarked the foreign donation service system ‘Cause World’ and developed an application called ‘Donation Talk’ which was based on phone calls. He was inspired to create MiRiNae after hearing about the suspended coffee movement, which seemed an attractive practice to be introduced in Korea to combat the lack of sharing culture within the country.

The MiRiNae movement is a concept that is translated from the Korean expression, ‘paying in advance for others’. Although inspired by the suspended coffee initiative, there are some subtle differences between Suspended Coffee and the MiRiNae movement, as it has been altered to fit the specific needs of Korea. First, the Suspended Coffee movement focuses on sharing for the needy and the homeless, but in the MiRiNae movement, everyone can be the recipient, it is not limited to the needy. Secondly, while the Suspended Movement is a sort of ‘Coffee Donation Movement’, the MiRiNae movement focuses more on daily-life. People are not limited to coffee shops but can donate at restaurants, cellphone sales agents, bakeries, animal clinics, etc; any shop can be a MiRiNae shop.

 The donation system used by MiRiNae is an interesting one. It uses coupons, which are printed with the value of a donation, and are then used by the community to redeem whichever goods are applicable. The host shop will always advertise the products and services that are available. The donations themselves are made when customers purchase products, paying more than the original value, which is a unique feature of the movement. This in turn offers a great help to the welfare system within Korea. Although government efforts are vast, initiatives like MiRiNae help to fill in the gaps. In this sense, the MiRiNae movement is a form of social insurance, created by the private sector.  

At the launch of MiRiNae, representative Kim envisaged around 10 stores participating in the movement. Rapid growth however has seen more than 430 stores of many varieties participating in the movement, largely in thanks to social media attention. Representative Kim said, “Unlike the Suspended movement, the percentage of Coffee shops within MiRiNae stores is only 30%. Many different kinds of stores have joined the movement, except bars. Anyone can pay in advance for someone else. It’s very easy and simple. People just donate as much as they can and want, up to their ability and economic condition. Who can donate a lot of money at a time?” 

It is important that a socially comfortable atmosphere is established, so that a sharing community can be created with ease. People are interested in the MiRiNae movement because it suggests an alternative and convenient form of charity. For these efforts, the MiRiNae movement has received an Excellence Award at the 2014 Seoul Innovation Awards, from the Seoul Metropolitan Government.

Read more about the movement here.