[Letters] Social contribution an energy for national integration

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[Letters] Social contribution an energy for national integration

The need to patch up the society after its ideological, generational and regional fissures were exposed during the December presidential race has become important agenda for the incoming government. A committee devoted to come up with works and policies to draw social unity was set up in the presidential transition. I personally believe social contribution is crucial to realize the goal of integration.

Let’s take the United States case for example. During the heydays of industrialization in early 1990s, wealth discrepancies also peaked. Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson carried out platforms and legislative agenda to redistribute wealth and fix unfair practices across the society. Social contribution activities by the rich and elite class created a new history in the American philanthropist culture.

According to nonprofit organization Giving USA findings in 2001, 80 percent of total 250 trillion won ($237 billion) in charitable giving have been provided by individual Americans. Half of the sum comes from the top 7 percent income bracket. Noblesse oblige has been practiced by the elite and wealthy Americans for a long time and helped to stabilize and unite the multi-cultural and multi-race country like the United States.

A government-led commitment to social cohesion is important, but from historical experiences and examples, voluntary and private-led philanthropic movement in the society could serve more effective in mending social conflicts. More importantly, the wealthy and elite must walk the talk and demonstrate good will through real conviction and actions.

The daughter of President Park Chung Hee who set the ground works for industrialization and economic progress in the 1970s to help the people move beyond poverty and hunger has been elected to the presidency. The founders of the country’s largest conglomerates that led industrialization have retired and are succeeded by their descendants.

The new generation needs to integrate the society through means of the times and philanthropic movement can pave the way. The rich and elite class of the country should benchmark the oil and steel industrialists John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie in their philanthropic lives and legacy that contributed in setting examples in the American charity culture in early 20th century.

*Kim Yong-woo, Member of the Presidential Committee on Social Cohesion

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