Charitable contributions seen to be on the rise

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Charitable contributions seen to be on the rise

Kim Jung-Yeon, 94, who has sold rice cakes at a market in Seoul for more than 40 years, is still selling to this day. Kim made an arrangement to give away all her inheritance, which includes 8 million won ($8,500) from her security deposit and 15 million won of savings, as part of the “Happy Inheritance Campaign” that the Community Chest of Korea has organized.

“Knowing that I don’t have that much time to live, I visited the district office ... and an employee introduced me to the Community Chest of Korea,” said Kim.

Kim lives alone in a small, single room near the market. Kim is from Kaesong, North Korea, and came to Seoul Dongdaemun market to start a business after losing her husband in the war. Kim didn’t have a chance to return to her hometown. Kim was 31 at the time and left behind three children, aged 11, 9 and 7. “The government said that they would find my children left behind. But I didn’t receive any news,” said Kim. “They must’ve died by getting hit by a bomb or something.”

Kim decided to live a charitable life till her death. Twenty years ago, Kim also pledged to donate her organs.

“I want my inheritance to be given as a scholarship to orphans ... and my organs to be used to save people who are dying in pain,” Kim said.

The methods of giving to charity are becoming diverse. From low-income workers like Kim to corporate CEOs, people are giving more to charity. Lately, social media forms like Twitter have started a changed way of giving to charity.

Thirteen people, for instance, took part in a “Happy Inheritance Campaign.” Among the 13, 11 were elderly, low-income workers who lived by themselves. Kim Duk-rae, 79, who a year ago made arrangements to give away her savings of 7 million won, said, “I’m only returning what I received from society.”

Long-term charity givers are increasing as well. These people, and companies, give a percentage of their sales or wages as charity. Mirae pharmacy in Seoul gives 50,000 won every month to charity. This is more than 1 percent of its total profit.

“By losing my father early, my life was difficult, so I passed middle and high school by taking the GED,” said pharmacist Lee Jae-Gul. “I decided that once my life becomes stable, I would help people in need. So I’m just doing what I decided to do.”

Lee said that “sharing itself is happiness.”

About 2,700 entrepreneurial businesses have recently donated a portion of their profits to charity.

Lately, Twitter and smartphones are changing the ways of charity-giving.

For 10 years, broadcaster Hwang Ki-Soon has been involved in giving to charity. For example, Hwang, with fellow celebrities, traveled around the world for 11 days to perform and raise funds.

This year, Hwang has twittered about his activities. The campaign raised 369 million won.

The Community Chest of Korea plans to create an application for smartphones this month. The “Love Tree for Charity” has grown as more businesses plan to give a portion of their sales to charity.

According to the National Tax Service, charity donations have grown from nearly 3 trillion won in 1999 to about 9 trillion won in 2008. Company contributions increased by three times within the six years, with a total of 2 trillion won.

Individual charity giving has increased as well.

According to the Community Chest of Korea, the percentage of individual charity giving has increased from 32 percent in 2005 to 40 percent last year.

However, experts said that there is still a long way to go. Recent figures show that nine-tenths of a percent of Korea’s GDP goes toward charity. In America it is 2.2 percent.

Meanwhile, the donation of real estate or stocks can be problematic because of the country’s transfer tax.

Cho Hye-Gyu, an accountant with the Hansol accounting firm, said, “The requirements involved in making payments with goods instead of real estate should be eased.”


By Kim Min-sang [enational@joongang.com.kr]
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