PHNOM PENH ― Construction tycoon Lee Joong-keun believes music and sports are the best means of building bonds between different cultures and people.
Since 2003, the Booyoung Group chairman has seen his company construct schools and donate electric pianos and sports facilities to hundreds of poor villages mostly in Southeast Asia and Africa.
Last Friday, he attended the opening of a taekwondo training center funded and built by the company in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
“Taekwondo is Korea’s national sport. I decided to fund the center to help raise recognition of Korea and help Koreans living in the nation,” the 72-year-old businessman said.
Future Olympic taekwondo medalists could be bred there, he said.
Booyoung, also involved in the home rental and resort businesses, has assisted schools and communities since it was founded in 1983.
It has built and donated around 130 dormitories and gyms at schools and town halls in remote villages in Korea.
Its overseas donations started in 2003 with the construction of a middle school in Vietnam. It has built some 300 elementary schools each in Cambodia and Laos.
It has donated 55,000 digital pianos to schools in 15 Southeast Asian and African countries. With the instruments, students there learn Korean songs.
Lee also asked other governments including East Timor and Sri Lanka that used to have no graduation ceremony at schools to hold one similar to that in Korea schools. Korean songs are featured in their gradation ceremonies.
Lee donated 6,300 pianos to Thailand in April, which mirrors the number of Thai soldiers that were sent to fight in the 1950-53 Korean War.
It also donated around 560,000 blackboards to Southeast Asian schools.
He has earned medals of merit from Cambodia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and East Timor for his contribution to the countries’ education.
The construction firm also plans to help those nations meet surging urban housing demands in line with their rapid industrialization.
In October 2011, the firm committed $3 million to the U.N.-Habitat over the next decade to spur urban development in Africa.
“Sooner or later owning a house will show one’s social status in Southeast Asia. Booyoung sees much potential in the Philippines and Indonesia along with Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.”
“About 80 percent of the entire Korean population is concentrated in cities, and in 20 to 30 years Southeast Asian nations will show a similar concentration,” he said.
“As more people will live in cities, housing policies will become essential and we are considering how we can provide help. We may also begin a property rental business in the nations.”
Booyoung Group based in Seoul currently has an estimated 1,000 employees.
The company based on property rental services runs 16 affiliates including Muju Deogyusan Resort, a ski resort in North Jeolla Province, Booyoung Entertainment, a film company, and Booyoung Country Club, a golf club on Jeju Island.
It owns a total of 290 apartments in Korea for property rental, which can accommodate 225,382 households.
It has overseas offices in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and the U.S.
By Kim Young-won (email@example.com)