Donor gives center another few million“Huge inheritances are like poison to children. I believe using wealth to educate talented people is more beneficial and [the positive effects] last longer,” said Chung Suk-gyoo, chairman of the Sinyang Cultural Foundation.
He certainly has put his money where his mouth is. Mr. Chung made the comments at a ceremonial event on Sept. 8 to mark his donation of 3 billion won ($3.1 million) for the construction of the Sinyang Humanity and Learning Information Center at Seoul National University. Mr. Chung, 77, has so far donated a total of 10.7 billion won to the university.
Mr. Chung entered Seoul National University in 1948 and studied engineering. He founded Taesung Rubber & Chemical Co. in 1967 and fostered it into a major manufacturer.
He once said he was “neglectful of his family because of work,” but he retreated from his fast-paced life when he was diagnosed with stage four laryngeal cancer. It was then that Mr. Chung established the 6-billion-won scholarship foundation.
“I had to earn money for tuition, and I thought someday I would help students in financial need,” he said. “I didn’t know how long I was going to live and decided to return all of my wealth to society.”
In addition to contributions to research and constructions, the foundation gave scholarships to 300 students. In 2001, he sold his company and devoted himself to the scholarship foundation.
“As the founder, I felt sorry about selling the company, but there was no guarantee that my children could manage it well. I thought that they should build their own wealth for themselves,” he said.
In 2002, he had his larynx surgically removed; he now speaks with an artificial vocal chord. Cancer also forced him to have much of his stomach removed. Even worse, his only daughter died of stomach cancer and his eldest son died of a rare incurable disease. That could explain why he donated 1 billion won to Seoul National University hospital in May for research on incurable disease.
Having been a businessman his entire life, it hasn’t been easy for Mr. Chung to shift gears.
Every day, he commutes to the foundation, located on the fourth floor of Sinyang Center at Seoul National University. (The center was also built with his contribution and opened in 2004.) The building comprises reading rooms and information search rooms for university students.
Mr. Chung is in a rush. “Rather than being afraid of death, I am afraid that I wouldn’t be able to finish what I have to do. I need five more years to complete the donations,” he said.
by Kwon Keun-young