[Student Voices]Call for a charitable societyThe rice farm subsidy program was created by the previous administration in 2005 to cushion domestic rice farmers against imported rice. It became a national issue since the health vice minister, Lee Bong-hwa, made headlines by applying for the subsidy although her family was not eligible.
The vice minister was replaced at the end of October, but the case exploded into a growing corruption scandal as the Board of Audit and Inspection submitted a list of 283,047 ineligible recipients of the subsidy to the National Assembly on December 1. The list was investigated by the Democratic Party with the data from the Ministry of Agriculture. The DP found 8,318 ineligible recipients. The final list includes 1,699 people from high-income groups earning more than 5 million won per month. It is known that officials and lawmakers who own land applied for the subsidy to receive a reduction from heavy property taxes.
By doing so, they showed us some Korean leaders are lacking noblesse oblige.
Many people are getting excited around this time. They are getting into the spirit of giving and sharing. We see many people giving small donations into pots set on the streets by the Salvation Army.
However, the current political situation in Korea sadly does not reflect the spirit of sharing during this last month of 2008. It makes me feel sorry not only for the farmers, but also for those who don’t have jobs in the midst of an international financial crisis. Those who were illegally involved in illegally receiving subsidies must be punished, and the subsidy program also needs to be reformed so this doesn’t happen again.
On the other side, however, are warm-hearted people around us who really care for underprivileged people. Actress Moon Geun-young was revealed as the biggest anonymous donor in the history of the Korean Community Chest, the biggest charity organization in Korea, contributing more than 850 million won for the past six years. Kim Jang-hun, a well known singer, is also notable for his donations, giving more than 3 billion won for the past 9 years, in huge contrast to those trying to enlarge their wealth by evading property taxes and using other immoral means.
Jackie Chan, who recently announced he would donate all of his property worth around 400 billion won after his death, said that he was overwhelmed by Kim’s continuous generosity and efforts to help the needy. It was recently known that he sent Kim $10,000 in July 2008 to help the Taean victims of the largest offshore oil spill in the history of Korea in December 2007.
As a student and also as a member of the public, I learned many things from him on how I should live.
One does not have to be a celebrity or rich to help others. He can help using his skills.
Pastor Kim Sun-tae gives us a good example on how people should live. Though he is blind, as a founder of Siloam eye hospital, where sight restoration surgery and state-of-the-art facilities are available free to the needy, he devoted his life to the blind and gave 32,000 people free eye surgery. He received the 2007 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service, in recognition of his passion for the poor and advancement of human dignity.
Our lawmakers and officials should learn from him.
I personally started my contributions to society since my last year in high school.
Duringn the final month of 2001, I persuaded my classmates to donate around 300,000 won to a charity fund at KBS. In terms of the amount, of course it was not such a huge donation, but it is important to have the will to help others who are in a dire situation.
Seven years have passed since my first donation, and now again, I would like to donate something to those in need.
I think there are many others who are in the spirit of giving and sharing like me. That is what will make our society better.
*A dual degree student at the University of Delaware and Hankuk University of Foreign Studies.
Benjamin Minsuk Kim