Myung-sook Seo

Ashoka Fellow
South Korea
Fellow Since 2013


This profile was prepared when Myung-sook Seo was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2013.
The New Idea
Myung-sook created a low cost alternative to government-driven and capital-intensive development projects by engaging ordinary citizens on a volunteer basis. Through her organization Jeju Olle, citizens participate in identifying, building, and maintaining hiking trails, and in doing so, revitalize local economies and cultures rather than channeling citizen voices to influence government-led work.

Jeju Olle is much more than an ecotourism initiative. Unlike most hiking trails that highlight the natural beauty in the surroundings, every Jeju Olle trail is designed to pass through at least three villages to maximize hikers’ exposure to everyday lives and ordinary people in various Jeju communities. The collective effort is intended to develop and manage the trails as well as the hikers’ appreciation for the local culture and nature, in addition to fostering community pride, civic participation, and collaboration. In addition, Myung-sook has leveraged Jeju Olle’s increasing popularity to create socially-oriented businesses and initiatives to benefit local residents and hikers beyond tourism channels. In essence, Myung-sook has established Jeju Olle trails as a platform through which local residents and outside visitors interact with each other and build lasting ties.

Myung-sook has come to see Jeju Olle as a template for citizen-led, environmentally sustainable development, especially in Asian societies that are rapidly industrializing and urbanizing with little regard for creating a work-life balance. Myung-sook has developed formal and informal networks to replicate Jeju Olle’s success in Japan, China, and other parts of Korea.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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