An example of noblesse oblige
By Kim Jae-won
Contemporary rich Koreans have often been criticized for their lack of noblesse oblige. They come first in tax evasion, while their sons get military exemptions more easily than others.
However, here is one exception, which shows what the true Korean upper-class citizen’s social responsibility should be.
A 56-year-old woman, who says she has been blessed to be from a wealthy family, has worked for the underprivileged and physically challenged women by helping them discover their potential in inventing and allowing them to gain financial benefits through the measure.
Korea Women Investors Association (KWIA) President Han Mi-young said she came to know the invention association by chance, but later realized it can be excellent motivation to help women who are in need.
The vice president of Taeyang Metal Industrial joined KWIA in 2003 through her friend’s recommendation. At the time, the organization had many problems including internal feuding and a debt-driven budget. The Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO), a government agency which supervises the organization, recognized the problem and thought that Han would be the ideal person to lead the association.
“The head of KIPO asked me to be the president of KWIA. He was persistent and did not let me go home for four hours until I accepted his suggestion,” Han explained the background of her decision to lead the group.
As expected, there was bumpy road ahead of her. The financial books of the organization were in poor condition, and even more crucial, it owed about twenty million won to lenders.
“I had one financial expert check the financial books. He suggested to me not to engage in the organization saying its financial situation is dangerous.”
Han was in distress. She considered stepping down from the post, but thought it is her calling to be with underprivileged women who need her help.
“I always prayed that God would give me a chance to help others sometime. I thought maybe it was the sometime,” said the Ewha Womans University graduate recalling the moment.
As she started to lead the organization, it has changed a lot. She was at the epicenter of the reformation.
“President Han donated her private assets for the organization to revive it. She worked really hard for it,” KIWA spokeswoman Kim Kyung-hee said.
Han asked the government and corporations for financial support, and the budget reached 2 billion won last year, more than five times in 2003, when she first joined KIWA.
Thanks to Han’s dedicated efforts, the group has increased its presence nationwide. Han created many new educational programs for physically challenged women. The organization also educated many lecturers who run invention programs for the kids of low-income families.
“I have been blessed to grow up in a rich and happy family. Now, I am satisfied that I can share what I have with the women who need it.”