Crude intentionsKim Jong-ik, known as the Suncheon millionaire, was a great landlord, in the early 20th century. He inherited his properties from his father, Kim Hakmo, who had earned money from loan sharking. Kim Jong-ik invested wisely and doubled his wealth. However, he believed he earned the money not because of his own skills, but because society allowed him to do so.
Therefore, he contributed 1.75 million Korean won, an astronomical figure those days, to society without expecting anything back. The money today is worth 500 billion won ($543 million.)
The money helped build Kyeongsung Womens’ Medical School in Hyehwa-dong, the predecessor of Woosuk University; a hospital and the current Sunchon University and Sunchon High School.
The founder of Yuhan Corporation, Dr. Yoo Il-han, said in his will to his children, “Since I helped you to graduate from university, you must now live on your own.” Inheriting the spirit of her father, his daughter, Yoo Jaera, donated everything she had, 20 billion won, after she died in 1991 in the United States.
Most huge donations that have been widely respected came out of the donor’s personal wisdom to restrain his greed.
The reason genius investor Warren Edward Buffett donated 85 percent of his wealth, or about $4 billion, to society was not because he had a special purpose or a reason. It was a pure act of generosity, with no strings attached. He has lived in the same brick house for more than 50 years and drives a car that is 10 years old. That is why Buffett’s donations were praised by American citizens.
Lee Myung-bak of the Grand National Party announced that he will donate 30 billion won back to society, leaving just a house for himself to live in. He made the announcement just 10 days before the election. It must have been a tough decision, but it did not leave a pleasant aftertaste.
It has the same unpleasant feeling, just like when Samsung or Hyundai returned money to society. If the candidate had pure intentions, he should have announced the donation after the election, whether he’d been elected or not. Then he would have received a great round of applause from the people.
The comment from the Grand National Party’s spokesman, “If they have the will, I urge the other candidates Lee Hoi-chang, Chung Dong-young and Kwon Young-gil, to do the same,” is dumbfounding.
Donations should be pure-hearted and voluntary, but Lee seems to want to turn it into some kind of contest.
*The writer is the Tokyo correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Kim Hyun-ki