[EDITORIALS]Let Gimbap Grandma's Name Shine

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[EDITORIALS]Let Gimbap Grandma's Name Shine

Chungnam National University's new International Cultural Center will be named in October after the university examines solicited suggestions. The building was begun at the wishes of the late Lee Bock-soon, who donated real property worth about 5 billion won ($3.8 million) to the university. She saved her money selling gimbap, or rice wrapped in seaweed. We recommend that Chungnam University name the building "Jeong Sim Hwa International Cultural Center," after Ms. Lee's Buddhist name.

Chungnam University initially planned to erect an academic building named for Ms. Lee by using the proceeds from the sale of her donated property as seed money. Because the sale of the property was delayed, the university built the center with a government subsidy of 18.1 billion won, and changed their plans to honor Ms. Lee on the ground that it was not built with her donation.

We still vividly remember Ms. Lee's beautiful act of love in 1990. At age 76, she donated the real estate and 100 million won in cash, her life savings, to Chungnam University. Her real estate now belongs to the university, and not naming the building after her would be the act of a cheapskate.

It is well known that Koreans' impulse to charitable works is impoverished compared with other industrialized countries. In the United States, $38 billion was donated in 1999, and 98 percent of Americans contributed something to charity. Colleges receiving big donations are not petty about naming privately-endowed buildings after the donors. In the United Kingdom, the average donation per capita per year is 240,000 won($185), and more than two-thirds of adults make donations to charity every month. According to data provided by the Beautiful Foundation, Korean donations averaged about 98,000 won per capita last year. Donations made not to support religious activity but out of sympathy, giving back to the community, moral obligation or a sense of responsibility are minute.

If Chungnam National University names the international center after Ms. Lee, it would be a firm statement that it commemorates her good intentions, and that may prove to be a turning point in the donation culture in Korea.

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