Offer needy what they really need

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Offer needy what they really need


It’s been a while since I got on the subway in the afternoon on a weekday. The train was not crowded, and I overheard a conversation among several old ladies. They were discussing how to get through this year’s winter, which is supposed to be especially severe. One argued, “We need to be careful when keeping the heating pad on.” She argued that the electricity fee has gone up, and they could get a huge bill if they liberally used electricity. Another responded, “What a catastrophe! All those people will freeze to death if they can’t use their electric heating pads.”

Their conversation struck me not because they were loud, but because of their views. I believed that the problem of excess usage of electricity cannot be fixed unless the lower-than-production-cost electricity fee becomes more realistic. But an electricity rate hike will only make working-class citizens suffer even more in the severe winter. I searched the government’s plans for citizens this winter, and found various proposals to keep the underprivileged warm.

But these measures have never really helped those in low-income households, and it is not realistic to expect the government to resolve the issue completely. In the end, our society needs to work together to make sure all the poor neighbors stay warm and healthy this winter.

There are many volunteer events to help our neighbors. Recent media reports have featured companies, organizations, agencies and celebrities making kimchi and delivering coal briquettes every day. However, some consider delivering briquettes to be a mere showoff. Households using oil boilers couldn’t get any help and orphanages are receiving less substantial aid, such as fruits and snacks, for the children. As the economy has slumped, end-of-the-year acts of charity may shrink as well.

So I called Kim Seok-hyun, director of outreach at the Community Chest of Korea. But he was quite hopeful. He claimed that the donation culture was spreading. As of Tuesday, the organization had raised 35 billion won ($33 million) more than in the same period last year. The most promising sign is that the number of individual donations was increasing. Around this time last year, about 200 people made donations of more than 100 million won, but this year, more than 400 people did, including 65 anonymous donors. Kim said, “More and more people consider donations to be a natural act of kindness and tend to make donations anonymously.”

Koreans are warm-hearted, indeed. The making of kimchi and delivery of briquettes are only a prelude to the notion that we care for one another. It is too crooked to look at these acts as mere showoffs. They may have not realized that low-income families use oil and gas for heating, rather than briquettes. Now, all we need to do is to shift the direction a bit to make sure we can offer the needy what they really need.

*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.


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