LIFE&STYLE

Entrepreneurs raise awareness of elderly poverty in Korea

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Dec 2, 2015 - 18:31
  • Updated : Dec 2, 2015 - 21:22

A group of entrepreneurs in Seoul aims to repay the sacrifices of their grandparents’ generation by raising funds and awareness for elderly Koreans in poverty.

Korea is confronting a demographic crisis as it struggles to support its rapidly aging population. Nearly half of Korean over-65s are living in poverty, while data this week showed that more Koreans over 50 are delaying retirement than ever before as they bear financial responsibilities to support both their parents and children. The elderly are also the age group most vulnerable to suicide in Korea.

Guests pose at the first Korea Legacy Committee fund-raising party in August. Korea Legacy Committee
The Korea Legacy Committee, which is led by start-up entrepreneurs and other young professionals, was launched in July and raised 1 million won to buy gifts for the elderly for the Chuseok autumn thanksgiving holiday. Head organizer Mike Kim said it was a “wake-up call” and source of motivation for young Koreans who had been unaware of the deep poverty levels among the local elderly.

Kim said his grandparents, who were farmers in rural Gimcheon, North Gyeongsang Province, sacrificed through their entire lives to send their son to study abroad in the U.S., where he was able to become a doctor. His mother’s side, likewise, worked as civil servants to not only provide for their daughter but also contribute to Korea’s transformational industrialization movement.

Kim, who moved to Seoul a year ago, said Korean millennials have a deep responsibility to ensure that the elderly have the support they need to live comfortably.

“Ever since living here, I’ve noticed so many senior citizens picking up cans and trying to find the next meal,” said Kim, who moved to Korea to work for food delivery start-up Baedal Minjok. 

“There is no way I would be living in Seoul, working for a start-up, and enjoying this country had it not been for the incredible will of our grandparents generation to persevere.”

He had launched a similar organization, which threw a yearly black-tie gala, to support the homeless when he lived in San Francisco, and he wanted to bring the culture of young professional philanthropy to Korea, he said.

It aims to host a fund-raiser once a quarter and other events year-round, with all proceeds going to the Seoul Senior Welfare Center.

“The long-term goal is to develop a legacy of compassionate support for the senior citizens of Korea driven by its rising youth,” Kim said. “We intend to develop this into an organization that will be in Korea for decades to come.”

This season’s theme is white attire to celebrate the snowy weather, and entertainment will include music performances by local saxophonist Willy J and a DJ.

The “White Party” event starts at 8 p.m. at Housestudio in Hannam-dong, Seoul, with the 30,000-won tickets payable in cash at the door. For more information, visit fb.com/korealegacy.

By Elaine Ramirez (elaine@heraldcorp.com)