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SNU’s Top Donor Funds Another Library

Posted September. 09, 2006 06:14,   


On September 8, Seoul National University (SNU) hosted an event where the Shinyang Cultural Foundation officially announced its donation for a Shinyang Library of Humanities.

“I appreciate your support for giving me the opportunity to make a lasting contribution to such a meaningful cause,” read the speech delivered on behalf of Chairman Chung Suk-gyoo (77) of the Shinyang Cultural Foundation.

Chairman Chung, who had his larynx removed due to laryngeal cancer four years ago, was wearing a thin smile listening to his speech read for him.

Professor Lee Tae-jin, dean of the College of Humanities, expressed his deep gratitude for a new building for the College of Humanities in about 30 years by presenting Chung with an appreciation plaque.

Chairman Chung received a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from SNU in 1952, and is the largest individual donor in the school’s history. Though the SNU alumni association has wealthier members than him, Chung ranks first in terms of donations.

Despite his laryngeal and gastric cancer he has been struggling against, he made nearly 30 donations, which total over 10 billion won as of late July.

The latest donation made public yesterday amounts to three billion won and will be spent on a second Shinyang library.

Since the foundation of Taesung Rubber and Chemical by Chairman Chung until the sale of it, he served as CEO of his company. In 1998, he launched a foundation and named it after his pen name “shinyang.”

After he visited Harvard in 1999 where he looked around dozens of libraries built with donations from the alumni, he made up his mind to make financial contributions to his alma mater.

Chung explained his decision, “I thought the SNU desperately needs libraries where students can have access to reference materials and study in a better academic environment. So I wanted to fund the construction of libraries for science and engineering majors.”

While in business, he has had a philosophy that a company is not a possession of an individual. Following his philosophy, in early 2001, he sold the company he established without hesitation and spent the proceeds on the Shinyang Library, an electronic library, for the SNU.

In return, the College of Natural Sciences offered an office for Chairman Chung on the fourth floor of the Shinyang Library.

For all his wealth, Chung is known for his frugality.

Professor Kim Do-yeon, dean of the College of National Sciences, recalled an anecdote with a smile on his face. The professor said, “Three years ago, I went to visit Chairman Chung to express our appreciation for his help with a Chinese graduate student, who was receiving five million won every year as a scholarship. Chung asked me to buy a bowl of noodles, which cost me just 4,000 won.”

Professor Sung Woo-je of naval architecture and ocean engineering contributed another anecdote. He said, “Once we had a dinner at a Chinese restaurant in the spring. He took the leftovers with him, saying throwing them away is a waste. I was impressed.”

It is still his daily routine to show up at his office in the library in the morning.

For lunch, he walks to the nearby dorm cafeteria and eats the 2,500-won lunch, a menu he calls “the most delicious meal in the world.” If there are students who remain on the campus and study at the library instead of going home for holiday vacations, he gets them snacks as encouragement.

Chung smiles, saying, “Whenever I see students studying at the library, I feel pleased that I made the right decision.”

For decades, he used to tell those around him that his inheritance will be a minimum.

On the inheritance matter, he once made remarks that attracted much attention. After being named as a “Great SNU Graduate” last year, he said, “Leaving a large fortune to your children is like giving them poison.”

For three years, his eldest son has been suffering from cerebellar atrophy, a disease that causes disability of the first degree classified by the government.

Instead of leaving a large inheritance to his son for his future, Chung sent one billion won to Seoul National University Hospital in May for research on incurable diseases. He said, “It would be a lot more meaningful to spend money on my son’s treatment than on the research for patients who feel hopeless victims of incurable diseases.”

Dr. Lee Jang-moo, president of the SNU, voiced his deep appreciation, holding Chung’s hands, “Chung’s contributions warm the hearts of not only SNU alumni but also all Koreans.”

Chairman Chung is planning additional donations when he sells his real estate holdings.

He said, “Though Korea was in the ashes of the Korean War and it was right after we regained our independence when I was an undergraduate, I was full of confidence that I will play a role in rebuilding my country as an engineer. It feels sad to know that these days students are reluctant to major in science and engineering.”

He added, “The SNU’s development funds are only one hundredth of those of Harvard. Korea has a bleak future unless the whole society rolls up its sleeves to support universities.”