A boring drama, once again

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A boring drama, once again

Once again, I was naive. I should have known what the Youth Hope Fund - which raised 70 billion won ($60 million) in just one month - was really about. None of the money came from conglomerates, but their chairmen made individual donations. Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee made a 20 billion won donation, and Hyundai Motor Chairman Chung Mong-koo gave 15 billion won. LG Chairman Koo Bon-moo donated 7 billion won. The size of donation was proportionate to the size of the corporations. The donation list was also made public in the order the conglomerate ranked. No one was lying, but still, I felt deceived.

The purpose of the fund is well-intentioned - it uses the money to create jobs for young people. For that purpose, raising more money is good, they argue. But this is even more regrettable because of the nature of the cause. It could have been an impressive drama at the beginning. The president suggested the creation of the fund at the Cabinet meeting on Sept. 15, and it seemed to be in conjunction with the spirit of the tripartite compromise among businesses, labor and the government.

The prime minister explained that the fund was backed by noblesse oblige. The timing was great, and a generational conflict over youth unemployment began to explode. The older generation claimed that they had lived through harder times, while young people called for them to stop playing a broken record.

The Youth Hope Fund could put an end to the fight. Just as we’ve seen in the World Cup and candlelight vigils, Korean society is always ready to impress. Crowd-funding and fintech could change outdated methods of fund-raising. Moreover, we are living in the age of social media, where people like to show off their good deeds.

Then, the drama became boring: The president and the prime minister made donations first. And the nearly obligatory donations by the conglomerate chairmen made it even worse. They conveniently donated large sums, undermining the value of voluntary participation, with small donation stories disappearing.

The government’s plan was obvious, and the business world lacked imagination. We blew our chance once again, one of the few left for the young and old to come together both emotionally and economically.

Once the fund is collected, it should be used transparently and efficiently. If it is used for the general election, donations will turn into political contributions. We also need to change the perception of evaluating corporate social responsibility based on the size of donations.

It could be more meaningful and effective to change the business model to create more jobs rather than make donations. The essence of corporate social responsibility is not how to use money but how they make money. Now, the ethical way of business counts more than donations and charities.

The author is the deputy business news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo. JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 12, Page 34

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