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‘Secret Santas’ keep winter warm

Although most feel the urge to offer a helping hand to the poor and the homeless at this time of year, fewer people have been able to open their wallets due to the lingering impact of the economic downturn, unemployment and inflation over the past few years.

None of this seemed to matter, however, to a gray-haired couple who made a repeat visit to the Salvation Army building in central Seoul this week to donate 200 million won (about $180,000).

The couple in their 90s, who refused to disclose their names, delivered the money and actually apologized for their absence the previous year, according to the charity group which revealed the story via a press release.

The couple, who had donated 100 million won in 2009, said they had increased this year’s donation to include the sum they failed to deliver last year. They asked the charity group to use the money to help unfit elderly people and young family breadwinners in their teens. 
A Seoulite drops a 5,000 won note into the Salvation Army charity pot set up in Myeong-dong, Seoul. (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)
A Seoulite drops a 5,000 won note into the Salvation Army charity pot set up in Myeong-dong, Seoul. (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)

During their previous visit two years ago, the husband had promised to “visit every year” as long as he “remains fit and living.”

The 200 million won donation is the largest made by an individual donor since the establishment of the Korea Salvation Army in 1983.

Another “Santa anonymous” made an appearance in the city of Jeonju in North Jeolla Province this week.

The nameless donor hid a box full of 50 million won and a piggy bank filled with coins near a local cleaner’s, according to the Nosongdong Community Center.

Officials at the center found the donation after a man, thought to be in his 40s to 50s, called to inform the center that he had left his donation under a car parked outside the cleaner’s.

The man, dubbed the “faceless angel of Jeonju,” has been making such secret donations every winter for the past 12 years. His donations over the past decade add up at some 250 million won.

In Jecheon City, North Chungcheong Province, an anonymous donor left 21 bags rice in front of the Sinbaek-dong Community Center, asking them to be used to feed the homeless and orphans.

“We are just an ordinary family, neither rich nor poor. But we wanted to have the heart of a rich person this winter,” the donor said in a letter left with the rice bags.

By Shin Hae-in (hayney@heraldcorp.com)
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