Just when the Korean public was feeling sick of superrich people squabbling over astronomical wealth, Daelim Group honorary chairman Lee Joon-yong showed that some of them can share what they have unconditionally.
Last week, Lee announced through his company that he would donate all his assets to the “Tongilnanum Fund,” dedicated to the unification of the two Koreas.
The Fund, operated by the Unification and Sharing Foundation, will be used to support organizations working on cultural and social exchanges across the border and promoting reunions of separated families.
The exact amount that will be donated hasn’t been released yet, but his shares in the Daelim Corporation and Daelim Industrial, as well as other affiliates, are likely to be worth more than 200 billion won ($170 million), industry watchers said. The amount is likely to be the largest donation made by a single person without establishing his or her own foundation for operation.
The Chosun Ilbo suggested that the 77-year-old’s deed was likely to have been inspired by the recent box office hit “Ode to My Father,” which depicts the life of a displaced man from North Korea during the 1950-1953 Korean War trying to make his life in South Korea through the economic and social turmoil.
“Lee is a rather reserved person but he has recently spoken up at the Federation of Korean Industries meeting about the movie. He said that he wept the whole way through because it reminded him of his own life when he had to board a cargo vessel with 500 other refugees when there was room for only five during the Korean War,” an FKI member was quoted as saying.
“Lee thought the best gift he could give to the next generation was unification,” he said.
The son of Daelim founder Lee Jae-joon had engaged in philanthropy before.
He donated 2 billion won in 1995 to the bereaved family members of the victims of the Daegu metro construction site explosion. The tragedy, caused by a gas leak, killed 101 and left another 202 severely wounded. He is thought to have been involved in several other projects, but has managed to stay under the media radar.
However, a Daelim spokesman said that the honorary chairman has always been down-to-earth. The workers have reportedly learned about the donation through news articles and Lee has told workers to “stay humble” without further explaining anything.
Lee’s donation was hailed by the public.
National Assembly Speaker Chung Eui-hwa said, “Lee has moved everybody’s heart.”
“Lee’s big move shows that the culture of charity has finally rooted in Korea,” said Choi Shin-won, vice chairman of Community Chest of Korea’s Gyeonggi branch.
“Lee broke the conventional custom of passing on his wealth to his offspring, which has often ignited the public’s frustration against people born with ‘silver spoons’ in their mouths. This is noblesse oblige,” Seoul National University president Sung Nak-in told the Chosun Ilbo newspaper.
By Bae Ji-sook (firstname.lastname@example.org