Booyoung Group gives boost to schools in need

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Booyoung Group gives boost to schools in need

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Booyoung Group Chairman Lee Joong-keun, center, poses with students from the Philippines. The company donated digital pianos and blackboards to local elementary and secondary schools. [BOOYOUNG GROUP]

More than 100 students stood in awe as brand-new digital pianos were delivered last month to Tejeros Hall, part of the AFP Commissioned Officer Club House in Manila, the capital of the Philippines.

For two months, the pupils at the local elementary and secondary schools had been practicing “Arirang,” a traditional Korean folk song that has practically become the country’s anthem.

“I’ve memorized the entire melody now,” one student said on Jan. 29.

Booyoung Group, a construction and properties company, was responsible for the donation - one of many the conglomerate has made to local communities in various countries in need.

The 5,000 digital pianos and 50,000 blackboards will be used for educational purposes.

A student orchestra and several Philippine choirs welcomed the visiting Korean group, which included Booyoung Chairman Lee Joong-keun, and performed “Arirang” and other Korean tunes to express their gratitude.

Armin Luistro, secretary of the Philippine Department of Education, and Kim Jae-shin, the Korean ambassador to the Philippines, were also present.

During the visit, Lee, 75, compared educational donations to drilling a well.

“When I was little, I shared water from the well with my neighbors in my hometown,” he said. “Donating tools for education is like drilling a well. Investment in education establishes a firm foundation for the country.”

Since 2004, the chairman has made donations to 18 countries, including Vietnam, Laos and Rwanda, amounting to 60,000 digital pianos and 600,000 blackboards worth approximately 500 billion won ($419 million) in investment.

He started his education campaign following a business trip to Vietnam, where he noticed the inadequate facilities in local schools.

Lee considered acquiring a digital piano manufacturing company to systematize the donation process. The donated pianos include Korean songs recorded for play. So with roughly 50 to 70 students per class, more than three million students are exposed to Korean culture via the donation.

But while Booyoung has operations in Vietnam and golf courses in Laos, it has no business ties in the Philippines.

In describing why he chose to donate to the country, Lee pointed to his book, “The Korean War: 1,129 Days,” which contains records of the conflict from its beginning on June 25, 1950, until the cease-fire on July 27, 1953.

“The Philippines was the first Asian country to establish diplomatic relations with Korea, and during the war, the country sent 7,420 soldiers,” Lee said. “I wanted to share with the Philippines the fact that the key to development in Korea after the war was education.”

BY LEE SANG-JAI [kim.jeehee@joongang.co.kr]

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