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“It Is a Disgrace to Hand Down Wealth Earned With Help of Society to One’s Children”

“It Is a Disgrace to Hand Down Wealth Earned With Help of Society to One’s Children”

Posted June. 06, 2005 06:21,   


“It is a shame and disgrace to hand down the wealth you earned with the help of your employees and society to your children.”

Lee Jong-moon, Chairman of AmBex and one of the most successful Asian entrepreneurs in the U.S. said the above at the Asia Society’s 2005 People of the Year award ceremony at the Waldorf Astoria in New York on May 31.

Lee’s is an up-from-the-bottom success story of Silicon Valley. He graduated from Chung-Ang University’s college of law and worked for a pharmaceutical company Chong Kun Dang until he became a general director. Lee left for the U.S. in 1970 and in 1982 at the age of 54, founded Diamond Multimedia Systems, a software developer which developed interface systems for Apple computers and IBM.

In 1995, Lee donated all his stock to establish the “Lee Jong-moon Foundation” and has since been actively launching philanthropic projects including scholarship programs and various culture support works. The combined value of Lee’s stock that funded the Foundation is said to have topped $40 million.

A Foundation worker says some of Lee’s funds go to Korean students as scholarships and “Activities to inform North Koreans of the world.”

In an interview after the award ceremony, Lee reiterated, “I won’t leave a penny for my children and I won’t allow them to work for the Foundation, either.” Regarding his Chairmanship at the Foundation, Lee repeatedly emphasized, “For now, I am in charge of deciding the operation directions for the Foundation but later on, I will leave that to the Board members.”

Lee’s will to return his wealth to society is firm. In 1994, when San Francisco’s Asia Gallery suffered financial difficulties, Lee donated 15 million dollars, the largest amount donated by an individual.

Lee has often said, “There is a perception in the U.S. that Asia lags behind Europe. In order to change that way of thinking, we should introduce Asia’s time-honored history and culture to Americans.”

Kwon-HeuiHong konihong@donga.com