Beacons of hope in the darkThe news that Kim Soon-jeon, an 89-year-old who fled south with only one blanket when the Korean War broke out in 1950, donated 10 billion won ($8.8 million) of her wealth to Yonsei University comes as a pleasant shock amid recent headline stories of grisly sex crimes and random street killings.
Kim suffered from extreme poverty in her youth, often having to forego meals and decent clothing. Yet in her old age, she pledged her life savings “to help students who have no money to pursue their studies.”
Stories like this remind us that good will, compassion and altruism still live in our society, and the actions of one noble philanthropist can fill us with hope that the foundation of our community will not crumble.
Meanwhile, Ahn Gwang-hoon, a 71-year-old priest at a Seoul Catholic church, has received a top charity award from the Seoul Metropolitan Government in honor of his lifelong devotion to the needy. He dedicated his life to protecting the welfare of coal miner, evictees and residents in poor neighborhoods in the capital.
Ahn was kicked out of his own home several times due to the government’s redevelopment of local neighborhoods, and he still lives in a small rented house without a car, television or mobile phone. Yet, he still finds the time and enthusiasm to arrange microloans for poor families.
There is both light and dark in the world. Although we learned the terrible news recently that a young child was kidnapped while asleep in her own home and later raped, we were also heartened to see bloggers unite in raising funds for the victim, who was hospitalized with brutal physical and no doubt psychological wounds.
Bloggers also responded by raising awareness of the need to protect young children from predators.
Society as a collective whole may have been shocked by the recent rapes and murders, but it refuses to sit idly by and watch them continue. Instead of merely becoming enraged or depressed, the public has called for the shoring up of the country’s defences for its future generation.
We hear bad news every day, and more may be coming tomorrow. But we have so many big hearts and beautiful souls among us, like the two aforementioned elderly people who devoted themselves to the greater cause of helping others in pain, which is why our society will heal and prosper.
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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