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Korean-Japanese billionaire to give away fortune

Han Chang-woo, a Korean-Japanese businessman who founded Maruhan Corp., Japan’s largest operator of pachinko parlors, said Saturday he will donate all his wealth, worth $1.7 billion, to help improve relations between the two countries.

Han Chang-woo (Yonhap News)
Han Chang-woo (Yonhap News)
 

“I’d like to give away all the money I’ve made before I die. I can assure that my personal assets, except for the company to be handed over to my son and some money for my wife, will be used for the inter-development of Korea and Japan,” Han told reporters in Busan.

The 80-year-old Korean immigrant was ranked Japan’s 17th-richest person by Forbes last year with net worth of 132 billion yen ($1.7 billion).

A self-made entrepreneur, Han stowed away on a ship to Japan in 1947 to shake off poverty in the aftermath of the Korean War. He launched Maruhan in 1957 after graduating from college there and expanded the business into food franchises, construction, leisure, advertising and banking and insurance. The gaming guru now generates 30 trillion won ($27 billion) in annual revenue.

Han is also known for his social contributions. When a tsunami and earthquake rocked Japan early this year, he offered 10 billion won to residents in hard-hit regions. His company has been helping build hospitals in developing countries like Cambodia and Myanmar, while hiring people with disabilities at home.

“I’m no longer interested in making money but in how to spend it,” Han said. “These days I’m thinking about social responsibility activities all the time.”

In addition to his personal donation, Han said he plans to boost his culture fund based in Japan to 140 billion won and an education fund to 10 billion won, which he initiated last year in his hometown of Sacheon, South Gyeongsang Province.

By Shin Hyon-hee  (heeshin@heraldcorp.com)
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