[EDITORIALS]Bravo, Samsung!

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[EDITORIALS]Bravo, Samsung!

The Samsung Group will set up the country's largest scholarship foundation, funded with 500 billion won ($427 million). Its scale will be larger than the foundation established in April by the chairman of Samyoung Chemical, Lee Chong-hwan, of 300 billion won. The news of another foundation of a scale that is in tune with foundations in other countries comes at an opportune time for our spirits, depressed by scandals and sticky weather.

The Samsung Lee Kun-hee Scholarship Foundation will start with 150 billion won contributed by Samsung's chairman and his son, Lee Jae-yong, an executive vice president of Samsung Electronics. The rest of the endowment will come from funds from other Samsung affiliates. The foundation will provide 100 students per year with funding for study abroad in any academic field; the stipend will be about $50,000 per student.

Few would disagree with the purpose of this philanthropy, which is to search out and nurture people with world-class talent who will become the backbone of not only Samsung itself but also of the country. Chairman Lee has reiterated since 1996 his conviction that in the 21st century, a talented and creative few people will be supporting hundreds of thousands of others.

There can be little argument against the idea that to survive as an economic power in the 21st century we need as many highly qualified people as possible to work in a knowledge-based society. But the situation in reality has not been so optimistic. A study by the International Institute for Management Development, a recognized authority on competitiveness, last year measured Korea's ability to produce a skilled work force at below the ability of not only Japan and the United States, but also our competitors Taiwan and Singapore. The number of new Ph.D holders in Korea fell to 958 last year from 1,578 in 1997.

We hope that the new Samsung foundation will become an engine for generating the "creative few" who will turn the situation around and lead the country. There should be more new foundations such as the two that have been established this year.
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