Benefactor’s advice to soldier: Spend money on your mother

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Benefactor’s advice to soldier: Spend money on your mother


A letter he received recently from a soldier stationed at an Air Force base in Yecheon, North Gyeongsang province, was a pleasant surprise for Lee Jong-woo, 66, the owner of a steel structures manufacturer in Goyang, Gyeonggi province.
The letter was from Yun Jeong-gi, a 22-year-old sergeant and a mechanical engineering student at Yeungnam University who was serving his time in the army. Mr. Lee also studied the same subject at the school.
“I was able to go to school without worrying about tuition because of your financial support,” Mr. Yun wrote. “I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to even give you a present as an expression of my gratitude. If you need anything, please let me know.”
Mr. Yun said he wanted to give his benefactor 500,000 won ($515), the wages he had saved during his 17-month stay at the base.
Mr. Lee and Kim Yang-hyeon, 27, another recipient of his largesse when he studied mechanical engineering at Yeungnam, headed to Yecheon in the early morning last weekend to meet Mr. Yun. Following his graduation this February, Mr. Kim will join the Korea Energy Management Corp., for which he is undergoing preliminary training in Yongin, Gyeonggi province.
The two Yeungnam University alumni and the student embraced tightly in a meeting room on the base, where they had a cheerful conversation about life in the military, school and their families.
The two men first met in January 2003, when Mr. Lee donated 600 million won for scholarships to the engineering school.
Both Mr. Kim and Mr. Yun were selected to be recipients for full four-year scholarships. Mr. Yun used up one year of his scholarship before joining the military in July 2004.
“I was the fifth child of eight siblings born to a poor farmer and had to work hard to cover my own tuition,” Mr. Yun said. “Because of the scholarship, I was able to study without losing hope.”
Mr. Lee would not accept any kind of repayment for his favor and thanked Mr. Yun for his good intentions. Mr. Lee suggested that Mr. Yun give the money to his mother, who happened to be visiting her son that day, rather than to his patron.
Mr. Yun insisted for a while, but finally agreed to Mr. Lee’s suggestion and promised to buy his mother a gold ring. After the two-hour meeting, they hugged again and vowed to share lifelong support and friendship.

by Hwang Sun-yoon
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