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[Opinion] Joy and Sorrow Caused by Lottery Win

Posted July. 26, 2004 21:58,   


It often happens that an incident that makes everybody envy you leads you to a misfortune at the end, while an incident in which you received everybody’s consolation turns out to be a blessing later. “Saeongjima (a horse of an old man living in a border area)” is not just a story of an old man who lived on the border in China, but it is a truth that applies to all times and places. In particular, there are many cases of “big fortunes” brought by lottery winning that turned into “tiny dippers” later. Winning a lottery is a “turning over a life” incident, but it is also often a prelude to the “beginning of misfortune.”

After a couple who lived together won the grand prize in the Lotto lottery, the woman disappeared and the man is suing her to get the money back. The “power” of winning a lottery is what separated long-time friends, a couple living without marriage, and even a husband and a wife who lived heart-to-heart for decades. A Korean woman who lived in the U.S. won a lottery prize of 18 million dollars in 1993, the highest amount in U.S. lottery history at that time. She used up all of the money in eight years and filed for bankruptcy in a U.S. court. In fact, there are people who don’t even look at lotteries, saying, “One who gets a surprise fortune will get a surprise misfortune.”

In Japan, it became a topic of conversation when an anonymous benefactor sent a lottery ticket that won 200 million yen to the governor of Hukui, whose residents suffered from a recent large flood disaster, asking the governor to use the ticket as a relief fund for the victims. In Korea, a group of five friends who held regular friendship meetings won the grand prize of the Lotto divided the money equally among each other and made a generous donation of 500 million won as a fund to help adolescents who are the heads of their families. There is another beautiful story: A brother, a restaurant employee, received lottery tickets as a thanksgiving gift from his older brother who is also poor. He won the first and the second prize in the Lotto lottery. When he received 1.8 billion won, he kept only 100 million won for himself and deposited the rest into his brother’s bank account. The older brother distributed the money evenly to all members of their family.

A newspaper in the U.S. did a survey on the people who won more than 10 million dollars. As a result, 64 percent responded they were “unhappier than before.” Those who said “similar or happier” were almost without exception living a life on a level similar to the way they lived before they won the lottery or donated a significant portion of their prize to community organizations. When the possibility to win a Lotto jackpot is as unlikely as one out of 8.14 million, we may have to just console ourselves that we did not win the lotto, therefore we won’t be unhappy.

Oh Myung-chul, editorial writer, oscar@donga.com