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Tycoon Kwon Still Bullish on Korea

Posted November. 02, 2006 03:01,   

한국어

Why is Kwon, Korea’s adventure tycoon, who has Spain denizenship, continuing to invest so much in Korea when everyone else is leaving Korea?

Kwon replies, “If everyone leaves because of hardship, who will protect our country? Even though conditions are harsh, I am investing to protect this country, because it is my motherland.”

After buying the burial site of Ahn Ik-tae, writer of Korea’s national anthem, in 1990 with his own money, he donated it to the Korean government.

We asked about his troubles due to investing in Korea.

“Although Korea is supposedly a good country to set up business, in reality, administrative support doesn’t go the way business wish it to. If I was a foreigner, I wouldn’t invest in Korea under these conditions.”

Kwon, who roamed the coast of Las Palmas in a deep-sea fishing vessel at age 26, bought his own vessel in 1978, and went into business.

Heedless of the civil war in Africa, Angola, where his headquarters were, he caught croakers, yellow corvine, and rays.

“With the government army taking over by day, and the guerillas taking over by night, we did business with the sound of gun shots in our ears. Others gave it up, but I didn’t. I made my life through adventure. My whole life was an adventure.”

Through Kwon’s endurance and adventurous spirit, Inter-burgo has grown into a company with a net worth of 5.0 billion dollars in Spain (shipyard, golf course), Netherlands (Asian foods circulation), Angola (fisheries), and Gabon (fisheries).

Inter-burgo’s sales amount is not known, as it is a “first rate secret for businessmen.”

Subsidiary company IB Sports was the first sports marketing company to be listed on the domestic stock exchange last month. Out of eighteen of Inter-burgo subsidiaries, IB Sports is the first to be listed on the market.

This company faced resistance from the three ground wave channels, by buying the broadcasting rights of America’s Major League Baseball, and the Korean national baseball team broadcasting rights managed by the Asian Football Confederation. Why did it do so?

“The current trend separates broadcasting and relaying. There is no principle that ground wave broadcasters must get the broadcasting rights, and since the broadcasting business is getting bigger, we stepped in first.

Kwon, who became an issue by showing up at a dinner at Cheong Wa Dae in a 10-year-old car, Hyundai Excel, in 2001, still drives a rented 1600cc SM3 when he visits Korea.

“It’s a waste to ride a big car in a country without oil. People like us must be the model example.”

Although his passenger car doesn’t seem fit for the president of a big company, his donations do.

Each year he donates 500 million won. 300 million goes to the scholarship foundation in his hometown in Uljin, North Gyeongsang Province. 100 million goes to Korean students studying in Africa or Europe, and the remaining 100 million goes as scholarship at Chinese Jilin University.

Through the Dong Young Scholarship Foundation made in 1986, he has given a total 80 million won in scholarship money to 7000 people. The reason he donates to Jilin University is to show his gratitude to the 500 ethnic Koreans living in China who work on his ships as sailors.

He says he is, “returning his profit to the region which gave the company that profit. I wish to live my life as it is fit for me, and give back to the world.”



buddy@donga.com