[FOUNTAIN]The money trail

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[FOUNTAIN]The money trail

Making a fortune in one fell swoop can be the beginning of a nightmare. There are numerous cases of people who become rich overnight during a boom period but who later find upheaval due to family disputes over the distribution of that wealth. People who ruin their lives by indulging in reckless behavior because of a pile of money are always hot topics of conversation.

Another way to fall is through the lottery. A Korean fisherman won a lottery worth 230 million won ($175,000) two years ago, and his happiness was shattered less than a year later. A clash over the money and his extramarital affairs led the fisherman to kill his wife.

Millions of lottery tickets are sold, but there has not been any research on how lives of lottery winners have been transformed. Most of the winners suffer endless requests for donations not only from relatives but also from unidentifiable organizations. Though these organizations might talk of charitable donations, they are actually demanding a slice of the money. No matter how hard lottery winners try to stay anonymous, their identities are eventually revealed.

In the United States, with its long history of the lotteries, and even in Britain, which adopted a lottery system later than other developed countries, lotteries are creating a completely strange phenomenon. Relatives of winners bluntly ask for money to be shared, and charity organizations flock to winners' doors. Some lottery winners in Britain wind up leading reclusive lives after suffering the jealousies of others. Even jackpot winners at casinos are no exceptions to these fates.

When Kim Jung-tae, chief executive of Kookmin Bank, recently said he would return half of what he earns from stock options to society, executives of renowned companies had difficulty doing likewise. They complained of pressures to make a donation and said that pressures from the media for donations will get stronger next month when many companies hold shareholder meetings. Stock options, which were adopted in Korea in 1997, are a bonus given in the form of stock in hopes that executives improve business results and raise the values of companies. In the United States, individuals traditionally have returned some of the wealth they accumulated to society, and the donations are regularly publicized. Chief executives are even advised to focus on making money and to do good deeds later. Successful CEOs in Korea should make contributions to society when they're ready.

The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Choi Chul-joo

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