Korean War widow leaves a gift for charity“I have realized my lifelong wish. Now I have no regrets.”
So said Jang Seong-ran, 82, who stood smiling shyly in the doorway of a charity center for the disabled in Suseong-dong, Daegu. She had just donated 9 million won ($9,382) to the Daegu Association of Persons with Physical Disabilities, despite the fact that she herself suffers from neuralgia ― a condition that causes spasms of pain in major nerves.
She said her only wish was to help the disabled. The money, she added, she had earned by saving up cash from selling recyclable wastepaper for over 20 years.
But she said she was only sorry that she couldn’t donate 10 million won, her initial goal.
“I hope the association will use this money for poor people without arms and legs,” Ms. Jang said, handing over a white envelope stuffed with checks.
For 20 years, Ms. Jang has left home at 7 a.m. every day, dragging an old baby stroller for use as a handcart to collect wastepaper. Once the stroller is full, she heads to the junk shop where she cashes in her recyclables.
“If I collect a large amount of paper I earn 3,500 won a day, and on the days when I’m really lucky, I earn 4,000 won,” she said.
She sells ice cream in the summer and rubber bands in the winter, earning enough money to put her son through college.
She’s less generous with herself, however. She said she often ate little more than a bowl of soup with bits of dough, and often skipped meals to work.
“She lives in a six-foot square room, but always stands up to help people in need,” said Bak Yeong-nam, 46, her neighbor. “At times, when she finishes her work earlier than usual, she visits the temple to pray. I saw her at the temple, but she often dozed off and sometimes even started snoring when she closed her eyes to meditate. Her life seems to be full of trials.”
Ms. Jang got married when she was 17 and gave birth to her son when she was 20. But the Korean War broke out when her son was four, and that was the starting point of her hardships.
Her husband joined the war and came back home in two years, but he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia ― he died four years later, leaving her to care for the child alone.
With the money Ms. Jang donated, the Daegu Association of Persons with Physical Disabilities yesterday granted 200,000 won each to 45 disabled adults at a nearby welfare center for disabled seniors.
The charity group has also scheduled a lecture by Ms. Jang, who will talk on how she made the money.
“Ms. Jang kept apologizing that she couldn’t provide the 10 million won she promised before,” said Kim Chang-hwan, the president of Daegu Association of Persons with Physical Disabilities. “To us, the disabled, Ms. Jang will be viewed as an unforgettable supporter till the day we die.”
by Song Yee-ho