Bankrupt Company Head Now Runs Seniors' Soup Kitchen
"I would like to pay back the debts I owe society by helping disadvantaged senior citizens," said the ex-president of a bankrupt construction company who presently runs a "soup kitchen" at a welfare center for the elderly.
Lee Jong-ik, 52, currently a co-president of the DoWon Engineering Company, opened the Hosanna Community Soup Kitchen for elderly persons in need in the Daeheung-1-dong Township in Daejon-shi, a city south of Seoul.
The kitchen covers an area of 35 pyong (140 square yards) and an average of 200 seniors are served dinner for free every day. The 220 pyong (880 sq.yds.) three story building was originally purchased by Lee's partner, Kim Hyun-in, 44, who runs the architecture office with him. Lee donates 2 million won ($1,700) of his 2.7 million monthly salary every month to support the soup kitchen.
Lee is the son of the now deceased Lee Jong-an, founder of the medium-sized architectural firm, YoungJin Construction Company. Lee Jong-ik's company, Noah Constructions, was forced to declare bankruptcy in September 1997. He was prosecuted and arrested on charges of delaying payment to his staff, etc. Lee blamed society for what happened to him; he ended up developing an ulcer and paralysis in his legs.
One day while praying and meditating, Lee had a spiritual experience which helped him to recover from his ailments. It also helped him decide to do volunteer work. Last January he was released from prison after serving 500 days in jail and decided to run the Hosanna Community Soup Kitchen as part of his penance.
"Life in prison showed me how meaningless are the pursuits of money and prestige," Lee revealed.
by Choi Joon-ho
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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