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[Editorial] Honoring Philanthropist Ryu Geun-cheol

Posted August. 19, 2008 07:39,   


Oriental medicine pioneer Ryu Geun-cheol has set a remarkable example by donating his lifetime assets worth 57.8 billion won to the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, the largest individual donation to a university in Korea. His noble intention, however, deserves more credit in that his huge donation stemmed from his desire for national scientific and technological development. The amount of his donation is bigger than last year`s sum of all donations received by Yonsei and Korea universities, which usually get the bulk of charity among Korean universities. Ryu rose to greatness when he refused to remain a wealthy successful man and decided to put his charitable ideas into action.

Not only does he espouse frugality, he walks the walk. Despite the hot weather, he has no air conditioner or fan in his apartment where he works and sleeps. He also takes extraordinary steps to save money. For instance, he goes to a barber’s shop only to get a haircut. Every piece of his furniture except for a cabinet and bed is made from 100-percent recycled materials.

Through his hands, broken ski poles have turned into a bookcase, a deserted iron board and woods into a desk, and a thrown away knitted vest into a cushion. He often wears cheap ties that he says he paid 10,000 won for four. He has accumulated his wealth this way, never allowing himself to withdraw money from his account. Donating 57.8 billion won of his life savings, Ryu said, “I’ve never thought of this as my money, but money I simply managed.”

Billionaire financier George Soros is also well-known for his charity. He once said charity is not an obligation for the wealthy but the basin of responsibility for humans. It is harder to spend money than make it, and a philanthropist should have his own principle to mind his charity results, he said.

Ryu is said to have looked for a recipient for 10 years to maximize his donation`s effects. He scrupulously consulted with the tech school on his donation, which will be used to build a recreational facility for people in science and technology, research labs, and a burial ground for leading figures in scientific advancement. Upholding his life`s dream to contribute to national scientific advancement, he has realized this through the school.

He says he was greatly influenced by his mother, who shared food with a beggar. As her benevolent spirit bore remarkable fruit within him, the spread of Ryu’s great love will make the world a much better place. Charity and sharing cannot be accomplished by money alone. Anyone with a warm and willing heart can make a difference.