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interview with Park Won Soon

The PakistanCIA The World Factbook

YI: And from human rights you went to social work, and established the Beautiful Foundation. What are the activities of the foundation?

Park Won Soon: In 2002, after serving for seven years as secretary-general of the PSPD, my junior staff were getting older and I had been in that position for too long. So I thought it was high time I resigned and to make them succeed and for me to expand to new territories. And after resigning, I thought, what was most appropriate for me to do at that time? So I decided that I should begin a new project, which was very strange to Koreans and that was philanthropy. Despite the tragic history of Korea, the Koreans have a warm heart, a tradition of grassroots, so I established the Beautiful Foundation, which is aimed at expanding the spirit of giving. As you know Korea had already been industrialized, so they have enough resources to give to others. So I began the campaign especially the one percent sharing movement, targeting every people to join, to give one percent of their income or even their time.

YI: But how were you able to make people to donate? These are people who are just trying to make a living and yet here they are giving one percent of their time, their energy and their resources. What convinced them to do it?

Park Won Soon: I think that in every social campaign, and in our society, it should first be based on credibility. We asked the people: why are you not donating? Seven percent of the respondents answered that they had no credible institution to donate. So from the beginning, I made it possible to disclose every information on the website. As you know, the website can be accessible from everywhere and at any time. That is the reason why the ordinary citizens believe in our credibility and our transactions.

YI: And now you have founded the Hope Institute. What is its objective?

Park Won Soon: Actually, around six years after the establishment of the Beautiful Foundation and its stores, I think the world went through a revolutionary change in Korea. Now there are the churches giving or social contributions have become very common in Korean society. So if something is getting (public) awareness, I lose my interest. I thought I should change my position again. So, it was lucky I was able to, which is forming a new think tank. There have been so many think tanks established by the government and big business groups, but very few have the perspective of civil society. So the Hope Institute is trying to reach and guide civil society, in terms of the civil and not intellectual way.

YI: Korea is one of Asia's richest countries, but there seems to be pockets of poverty here and there. Do you think Korea is developing too fast for some of its citizens?

Park Won Soon: As you mentioned, Korea experienced rapid economic development, that proves that we also have a big social change, between the rich and the poor and also between the generations. So there is a big change. In that sense, the role of civil society is very important , especially the charities and philanthropies in the beginning, in that the process of the foundations is to set in order, to implement and to complement the role of the government. The government are providing funds to the poor people, but I think it's not enough.

YI: And what about your neighbors to the north, do you have plans to help the needy over there in North Korea?

Park Won Soon: Yes, actually in the 1980s, it was strictly prohibited to cross the border. Every contact was impossible at that time. But since 1990, even though it was very limited, we can cross the border with the permission of the government and now there are many NGOs and humanitarian organizations which support poor people in North Korea. And now there is a change in their quality from simply providing food to support how to strategically survive, for example, they are trying to provide some facilities to make some tools, or how to manage the crops efficiently. I think this is a good development, but this depends on the quicker situation. As you know, the recent talks had made good way for new peaceful interactions. In that sense I think they are optimistic in future to bring more peaceful trade and exchanges between south and north, and between the north and other countries. That is my hope.

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