중앙데일리

Business baron provides hope and education in harsh times

Mar 26,2007
Sung Wan-jong, author of “Ray of Light.” [JoongAng Ilbo]
Sung Wan-jong, 56, the chairman of Keangnam Enterprises, recently published his memoir, “Ray of Light.” It’s the story of a boy from a poverty-stricken family who grew up to become the president of a large corporation that he built from scratch. “With my memoir, I hope to inspire those who are going through a difficult time in their lives,” Mr. Sung says.
His early years were especially harsh. As a child , Mr. Sung, his mother and three brothers were deserted by his father, who had fallen for another woman. They didn’t have much money and often went for days without eating. His mother decided to leave their home in Seosan city and travel to Seoul to earn money, leaving her sons behind.
Mr. Sung was then forced to live at his father’s house with his three younger siblings. However, one day, after a heavy beating from his stepmother, he decided to run away. He knew he would encounter many difficulties, but the only way for him to free his brothers from his father and stepmother was to earn money. With just 100 won (11 cents) in his pocket, he came to Seoul. He was just 13 years old. That was the beginning of the toughest period in Mr. Sung’s life.
When talking about his memoir, he said, “Having to write about the wrongdoings of my father and stepmother was the difficult part. However, I felt the need to be honest about my experiences. I just hope my story will guide those who also find themselves in the darkness.”
Recollections of cold winter nights spent in other people’s barns and earning a pittance by delivering newspapers and doing chores for a pharmacist are all contained in his memoir.
In 1975, he started his first cargo brokerage business with just 1,000 won. In less than three decades, the annual sales of the Dae-a Group, which he founded, reached 2 trillion won. Dae-a Group bought Keangnam Enterprises in 2004 when it was in the middle of a debt restructuring program. It now has 11 subsidiaries. The group has a large overseas business and last year its revenues exceeded $400 million.
Mr Sung says in his memoir, “Poverty was my teacher in life. I was never discouraged because I always kept hope.”
Mr. Sung, who did not finish high school, has been deeply involved in education and educational charities. Since 1991, he has given 20 billion won in scholarships to more than 7,000 students through the Seosan Scholarship Foundation, which he established. He has also promised to donate an additional 10 billion won by 2010. However, he has made known his intentions to leave just a modest house to each of his two sons.
Mr. Sung envisions establishing a free economic zone in his hometown of Garorim Bay, Seosan city, South Chungcheong province. The Garorim Bay project was originally planned by the late President Park Chung Hee.


By Shin Yong-ho JoongAng Ilbo [jbiz91@joongang.co.kr]


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