[FOUNTAIN]Profit not worth harmIn the 1930s, the residents of Chaozhou in the Guangdong Province in China worshiped Confucius, and the local children attended a Confucian initiation ceremony when they entered school. They would offer a transparent candy, a symbol of a fish eye, to the tablet of Confucius and bow, praying to the great philosopher to take them as disciples. Fish were believed to have sharp eyes, and the children made a sincere wish for eyes that would better understand the world. Li Ka Shing, who was born in 1928, was no exception when he turned five and was sent to school. On his first day at school after completing the ritual for Confucius, his mother prepared three special dishes, stir-fried pork liver with parsley, fried bean pod and green onion and carp. In the Chaozhou dialect, the pronunciation for pork liver was the same as “government,” and green onion and “intelligence” were pronounced the same. Also, parsley and “diligence” were pronounced the same. The mother wished little Ka Sing to diligently study and become intelligent so that he could work for the government someday.
When the Japanese invaded China and Chaozhou fell under the Japanese occupation, Li’s father, a teacher, lost his job. The family moved to Hong Kong, but two years later, Li’s father died from pneumonia. Being the eldest son, Li Ka Shing made a pledge that he would take care of the family when he was only 14. His regular education ended at the 7th grade. After he left school, he worked in a cafe, peddled watch bands and sold plastic goods. However, he never stopped reading and eventually he realized the dream that his mother had put in the meal she prepared on his first day of school. Li Ka Shing was diligent, working 16 hours a day when everyone else worked 8 hours. And he was frugal, wearing the same suit for 10 years. He developed insight into the world through self-education and became one of the most respectable Chinese merchants in the world, owning more than 460 companies and hiring 180,000 employees. People say that when you spend 1 dollar in Hong Kong, Li Ka Shing pockets five cents. However, the world’s 10th-richest man is not a target of criticism. His philosophy is to never do business that harms society, no matter how big the profit. On Aug. 24, the honorable Li Ka Shing announced that he would donate one third of his wealth, about 6.3 billion dollars, to the Li Ka Shing Foundation. Mr. Li lives by a teaching in the Analects: “Wealth and honor acquired by unrighteousness are floating clouds.” With the Sea Story gambling controversy shocking the nation, Koreans might want to contemplate that philosophy.
by You Sang-chul
The writer is the Asia news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.