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[Editorial] Culture of giving

More individuals need to donate more frequently

An annual national fund-raiser to help people in need started Wednesday with the aim of collecting 310 billion won ($294 million), slightly more than the 302 billion won donated during last year’s event, by the end of next January. It is hoped that this moderate target will be achieved though the economy still remains far from full recovery.

Hyundai Motor Group became the first conglomerate to join the “Hope 2014 Sharing Campaign,” donating 25 billion won on the first day to its organizer, the Community Chest of Korea. The group has increased the amount of its donation by 5 billion won annually over the years since 2010 amid a heightened awareness of corporate social responsibility.

It is encouraging that the culture of giving has continued to spread across Korean society in recent years, but there is yet much to be done before it takes firm root.

Korea ranked 45th in the 160-nation list of the 2012 World Giving Index compiled by the Charities Aid Foundation, a U.K.-based organization. The index is based on an average of three measures of giving behavior ― the percentage of people who donate money to charity, volunteer their time and help a stranger in a typical month. With its place last year representing a remarkable rise from 82nd in 2010, Korea still lagged behind the Philippines at 17th, Thailand at 26th, Cambodia at 40th and other developing countries. The ranking is anything but impressive for a country with the world’s 15th-largest economy.

Korea needs to further strengthen and enlarge the foundations of its culture of giving to induce more individuals, especially employed workers, to make donations on a regular basis.

More than 70 percent of contributions received by the CCK last year came from corporations, with the share of individual donors remaining at 26.1 percent. Donations by salaried workers accounted for a mere 3.1 percent, compared with 56.7 percent in the U.S.

Small contributions by more individual people on more frequent occasions would help achieve a truly compassionate and harmonized society that pays heed to the less privileged and fortunate being driven into a corner under difficult economic conditions. The value of a giving behavior is not in proportion to the amount of donations. It may be in this context that this year’s sharing campaign goes under the slogan, “Love starts with a small donation.”

In addition to making large contributions in their names, corporations need to implement measures to encourage their employees to donate individually. It may bring more satisfaction and pride to workers if companies put forward a matching fund for their donations as some enterprises have already done.

Inheritance contributions by individuals remain an uncommon form of giving in Korea. They took up 7 percent of donations made in the U.S. last year but the corresponding figure for Korea was far below 1 percent. The government needs to consider offering some tax deductions in proportion to the amount of inherited wealth that is donated to charity.