Sean, Hye Young Joung, Kim Jang Hoon. What comes to your mind when you hear these Korean celebrities’ names? It is true that they are well-known in the Korea entertainment industry. But actually, they are even more famous when it comes to the topic of donations.
People say that ‘Winter is the season of giving’ because by sharing and helping others, we can gain satisfaction and feel warm during the freezing winter. Since winter is here, we have decided to talk about donations.
The Start of Donations
Noblesse oblige is a French phrase that literally means ‘nobility obliges.’ Specifically, the term ‘suggests noble ancestry constrains to honorable behavior; privilege entails responsibility.’ This term began in Europe where differentiation between nobility and commoner existed. During those times, the majority of nobility were given countless privileges to enjoy. However, to maintain respect from the common people as well as the honor of being noble, the nobility had a social responsibility to contribute more than others to society. They were not to simply spend their time in idle pursuits.
Nowadays, the broader term ‘the leadership of society’ has been firmly entrenched into our society. Consequently, ‘Noblesse oblige’ is currently viewed as a moral responsibility and obligation in correspondence to social status of the leader of a society who has wealth or power.
From the past, around the world, donations were considered as Noblesse Oblige, a duty of the high class in society. To be specific, a donation is a gift given by a person or a group, typically for charitable purposes and/or to benefit a cause. When someone donates, they offer something without expecting something in return. Donations have progressed into many forms such as money, organs, talent donations and so on.
Reality of Donations
In this part of the article, we will disclose the reality of donations in Korea and also look at how donations are being made in other countries.
In Korea, when the year ends and the New Year comes, donations pour into the society, which creates a very warm atmosphere for all. However, the sad thing is that donations are concentrated on a certain time of the year. We should really take the time to reflect on this because in other countries such as the U.S., donations are made year around. In fact, the United States is known by many as ‘The country of donations’ because donating has become a habit for many in the U.S. The world average for donation rates is generally 80 percent, but Korea’s rate remains close to 20 percent.
According to the World Giving Index (WGI) in 2010 by the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) and the Gallup public opinion poll agency, Korea was the 81st out of 153 countries. Most Western European countries took the top places, the U.S. was the 5th, while Korea ranked the highest among Asian countries. Nevertheless, the rate was fairly low considering the fact that our gross domestic product (GDP) was ranked 15th among the countries that were researched. The GDP of New Zealand, Laos and Sri Lanka were lower than South Korea’s, however, their donation rates were much higher than Korea’s.
Let us look specifically at donations made in Korea. According to ‘Korean Philanthropy in Ten Years; Estimates of Donation amounts and analysis’ by Yuhan Kimberly during 2003~2009, the number of donators fell significantly. It was 64.3 percent in 2003, 65.6 percent in 2005, 55 percent in 2007 and it was only 32.3 percent in 2009. But, according to a research by the Beautiful Foundation, the average amount of donations made per person increased. In 2005, 70,305 and in 2007, it was 109,000. Though the amount of donations increased, if we look at the overall trend, the total sum of annual donations has fallen considerably. The aggregate of donations was 0.79 percent of the domestic GDP. It did not even reach one percent.
Even if you are not currently making donations, you will probably recognize the names of more than one charitable foundation. Though the participation of Koreans in terms of making donations is low, many charitable foundations have been established in Korea and many foreign charitable foundations have branches here. We will now inform you of some interesting facts on how some charitable foundations were established and what you can do to start donating!
Good Neighbors (http://www.goodneighbors.kr)
Good Neighbors started in Korea in 1991 to provide people around the world with a better quality of life. It is an international humanitarian and development non-governmental organization (NGO) in General Consultative Status with the UN (United Nations) Economical and Social Council (ECOSOC). It was granted General Consultative Status with the UN ECOSOC in 1996. One of the interesting things about Good Neighbors is that in 2007, it was acknowledged for its contributions and granted the ‘MDGs Award’ because the results of its project related to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were well-acknowledged. You can contribute money, things or do volunteer works for Good Neighbors. If you want to help a child, domestically or overseas, you can have it arranged by applying on their website. By helping financially with children overseas, they will be provided with education, protection, health care, drinking water and sanitation. The minimum donation to help a child in Korea starts at 20,000 per month and the minimum donation to help a child overseas begins at 30,000 per month. There’s no limit as to how many children you can help.
United Nation’s Children Fund (UNICEF) (http://www.unicef.or.kr/unicef)
UNICEF was established in 1946 by the UN to help European and Chinese children suffering from hunger and disease after World War II. Then, in 1950, UNICEF expanded their help to include children in developing countries. There are many projects that the Korean Committee for UNICEF is involved in. The committee informs people in Korea of the present condition of children around the world as well as relevant UNICEF projects and raises funds to help these children. They also strive to increase the rights of children through education and advertisement. To take part in helping children around the world, you can make a one-time donation or contribute periodically. Both contributions start at 30,000. Furthermore, you can help the foundation itself by donating 5,000 every month.
Novel Ways to Make Donations
People tend to think that they need lots of money and have to go through cumbersome processes in order to make contributions. However, there are many ways of contributing that have sprung up and made up for these shortcomings.
The first contribution we would like to introduce to you is talent donations. People can help contribute to a better society by contributing their talents to civic organizations or public institutions. The range of talent donations is broad in that it includes all the contributions using one’s various talents. For example, pianist Kun-Woo Paik held performances in Yeonpyeongdo, Wido and Yokjido for people living there. Korean famous singer Cho Yong-pil visited Sorokdo and sang his popular songs for people suffering from Hansen’s disease. We can tell ‘Chungchun Concert’ hosted by Ahn Cheol-soo and Park Kyeong-chul is a kind of talent donation.
They serve as a lighthouse to university students with it. The concept of talent donations first came to people’s attention thanks to Korean novelists Lee Oisoo and Geum Nan-sae. Talent donations for farming and fishing communities are a social service activity where a person or a company contributes specialized knowledge, experience and techniques to vitalize farming and fishing communities. Lee Oisoo has actively provided talent donations since he first stayed at Hwachoen ‘Gamseong ma-eul,’ Gangwon-do and gave lectures about literature for free in his spare time. Thanks to his contributions, this silent village changed into a tourist town where about 4,000 tourists visit yearly. Korean conductor Geum Nan-sae has offered opportunities to teenagers to develop their dreams through music with his orchestra since April 2011. However, normal people can contribute talent donations as well because people have their own unique talents. You can start doing it if you truly want to.
The next kind of contribution we are going to talk about is the donation of money and blood at the same time. In the past, when people donated their blood, they received mementos including movie tickets, umbrellas, nail clippers and so on. Since July 1, 2011, the Korean Industrial Health Association has decided to contribute 4,000 for each contribution ticket with the name of the blood donator as another option instead of the usual mementos. This kind of contribution is handy because people can donate money and blood together at the same place.
At the end of last year, banking institutions in Korea offered novel ways of contributing. People were now able to contribute small amounts of change that were left in their savings accounts and one percent of their monthly pay to certain charities. Moreover, it adopted another handy way of contributing. If you had watered the tree on the website of a certain banking institution, you could have contributed 10 each day to charities. Also, a contribution using points collected from your credit cards is quite popular. If you consider that you cannot use some points from your cards which will eventually vanish anyways due to expiration dates, it is understandable why many people participate in this program.
The last type of contribution to introduce to you is a donation using social media. As social media outlets continue to grow, this kind of contribution is gaining fame. One social commerce company in Korea contributed not only some of its sales, but also money made by selling coupons to help certain people in miserable conditions. One telecommunications company in Korea conducted a campaign collecting 500 per retweet or per reply from Twitter, a kind of Social Network Service (SNS), and contributing these funds to a charity. Also, one stock company in Korea carried on a campaign accumulating 1,000 per follower on Twitter and contributing it to foreign indigent children. If you had become a follower of the company, you could have donated 1,000. There were also individual contributions using SNS. Some normal Twitter users voluntarily opened up a campaign saving up 1 per retweet or follower and contributing it to a certain charity. This campaign started in September 2010 and more than 700 people have collected over 31,000,000 over five months.
These days, people can easily make donations in various ways through many charitable foundations or current techniques. For example, one can find articles about the Good Neighbors’ campaign posted on Facebook and make a contribution through the Internet banking using one’s smartphone. According to Good Neighbors, 30 percent of new individual contributors participated in the campaign through SNS in 2010. That is, SNS is playing a crucial role in the culture of giving. Many university students are using SNS in their daily lives. If you pay a little attention to making donations, you will be able to start doing it easily. Now you might realize that you, university students, can make contributions with small amounts of money from your allowances and a few minutes of your time. The most important thing is to make regular contributions with continuous attention rather than to wait until you make a lot of money to contribute.
In a nutshell, we should really reflect on the current donation rate of Korea and start contributing to society. Winter is a great time to start donating and spread warmth to people around you. You, the students of the University of Seoul, will get through the warmest winter you have ever experienced, if you start making contributions with a profound perception of what we presented above.
Interview with Shim Hye-min(International Relations, freshman)
We interviewed Shim Hye-min to learn about what kinds of donations our students make. She donates 5,000 every month to UNICEF. She started this last year in August when she saw her friend donating. Before, she thought that in order to participate in donations, you have to have a lot of money. However, when she found out that she can sponsor just 5,000 per month, she applied right away.
She took interest in donations because she read books called ‘Tears of Toto,’ and ‘Do not even hit with a flower.’ when she was little. By reading these books, she started to think deeply about donations. She said “the act of donating is what counts, not the amount.” Since she is a freshman, we asked if she had ever thought of using that money for something else, such as shopping or going to the movies. She said that nowadays she has never thought about using that money elsewhere and routinely saves 5,000 every time she gets her allowance.
Once, she spent all of her allowance before contributing. Consequently, she did not have any money and was late on making the donation. After that incident, she regretted her way of living without a plan and made it a habit of saving money for the donation. When we asked her about her future donation plans, she said that she wants to do one-on-one sponsoring for children in foreign countries. She cannot do this now, since she is making contributions with her parent’s money. She wants to tell UOS students “Let us all take part in donating even with a little amount of money! You can feel and learn a lot from making donations.”