Korean manager to become pride of the LionsTwenty eight years after Lee Tae-sup, 64, knocked on the door of the Seoul chapter of the Lions Club International, a volunteer service group, he has finally reached the top.
Mr. Lee, first vice president of the worldwide organization, has been tentatively tapped to step up to the club’s international presidency.
“It is an honor to become the top lion, which was my dream,” Mr. Kim says. “However, I am more pleased that my succession proves that Korea’s stand in the global community has ascended.”
Mr. Kim says he plans to increase the numbers of younger people and women in the club. The motto of the club during his term, he says, will be, “The reform that opens the door to the future.”
“I’ll do my best to bring vivacity to the club,” Mr. Kim assures.
He is to be elected international president next month at the club’s general meeting in Colorado. His term lasts for a year.
Mr. Kim is the first Korean and second Asian (after a Thai) to be elected international president.
The Lions Club was founded in 1917, when an American, Melvin Jones, proposed a club that would devote itself to the development of community and the world. The Seoul chapter started in 1959.
Currently, Lions clubs exist in 191 countries with 1.4 million members around the globe. With the financial contributions collected from members, the club supports volunteer work in many countries and communities in need of help.
Mr. Kim persuaded the Seoul club to invest $4.8 million to build an ophthalmic hospital in Pyeongyang. Construction of the hospital is scheduled to be completed in April next year.
“When I first suggested the idea of a hospital in North Korea, the club asked why we should invest in a country that is so vague,” Mr. Kim says. “But I kept on cajoling and finally got the acceptance.”
Since the Lions Club is a mammoth organization, the president is kept busy traveling all around the world. For the next year Mr. Kim will spend only 20 days in Korea.
As a young man in the 1960s Mr. Kim was a promising scientist, who earned his Ph.D in chemical engineering in two and a half years at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Leaving his expertise behind, Mr. Kim later became a management expert, working at several huge enterprises including Daewoo Engineering and the Poongsan Corp.
Mr. Kim served four terms in the National Assembly, and was minister of science and technology. Public service for him, therefore, is nothing new.
Some Koreans dismiss the Lions Club as a social club for the rich or for government officials. The Lions Club in Seoul, however, calls this a misconception resulting from a short history and a lack of publicity.
“In Europe and in the United States, everyone picks the Lions Club as the most active nongovernment organization,” Mr. Kim insists. “In Korea alone, an annual 25 billion won [$21 million] worth of contributions are spent on the underprivileged community.
“Lion Club members are the real volunteer workers in our society,” Mr. Kim says.
by Namkoong Wook