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Korean celebrities and fans find common ground in philanthropy
Publication Date : 23-12-2013
Giving gifts to idols has taken a more meaningful turn as fans now donate to charity instead
Many Korean celebrities and even ordinary fans regularly take part in charitable giving throughout the year.
But with the holiday season just around the corner, the spirit of thankfulness and being mindful of those less fortunate is more alive and present than at other times.
Pop singer Kim Jang-hoon, is one of the nation’s best-known celebrity philanthropists. Often referred to as the “Donation Angel” Kim has reportedly donated more than $10 million to charity during his more than 20 years as a singer and received the President’s Volunteer Service Award from US President Barack Obama last summer.
In 2011, Kim was on Forbes list of 48 Heroes of Philanthropy, which noted him as the Korean celebrity most synonymous with philanthropy who has given millions to various causes from his concert and album earnings.
This year Kim embarked on the “Kim Jang-hoon Miracle Tour” in the United States, donating $50,000 to Susan G. Komen for the Cure, which is a breast cancer charity, and $50,000 to UCLA’s Korean traditional music program team during his L.A. concert.
He also gave $20,000 to Komen; $30,000 to the NYU Student Senators Council; and $10,000 to the FIT Student Association after wrapping up his New York concert at the Manhattan Center earlier in May.
“For many years to come he will continue to put on great performances and, through his charitable donations, enhance the status of Korea,” said a representative from Kim’s local agency.
He added that Kim would continue his charity and cultural exchange concert performances throughout next year.
Talent agency YG Entertainment - home to Psy, Big Bang and 2NE1 - announced earlier this month that it is partnering with Yonsei University Medical School’s Severance Hospital for its “Dream Gift” campaign to support children suffering from heart disease.
The campaign was established after YG CEO Yang Hyun-suk heard the story of a Yonsei professor wanting YG staff members to help realise his lifelong dream of producing an album that he would sell to raise money for the children. With the album, titled “Once in a Life Time,” the professor managed to raise around 50 million won in three months. Touched by the cause, Yang decided to donate 100 million won of his own money and launched the “Dream Gift” campaign.
Jang Geun-suk is another celebrity who is no stranger to donations. He added to his long list of charitable deeds with his most recent donation of 100 million won to UNICEF early this month to help with relief efforts in the Philippines after a massive typhoon last month resulted in the deaths of thousands and displaced of millions of Philippine residents, who are left without food or water.
“Jang Geun-suk receives love and support from his fans all over the world, especially with his reappearance on the small screen,” said a representative from the star’s agency. “He wants to give back to his fans through this donation.”
However, it is not only celebrities that are noted for their charitable donations. Many K-pop fans, especially fan club members, take the meaning of being a fan to a whole new level.
Jang is one of an increasing number of stars whose official fan clubs show devotion to their favourite stars by donating to various causes. In commemoration of the star’s birthday, Jang’s official fan club “Cri-J” donated more than 9 million won to a child care facility on Namsan in the entertainer’s name last year.
According to his agency, Jang was so touched by the heart-warming donation that he donated another 9 million to the same cause.
Similarly, when Big Bang leader G-Dragon celebrated his birthday last August, he decided to make a birthday donation of 81.8 million won (the number represented the star’s birth date) to the Seungil Hope Foundation, a hospital for patients with Lou Gehrig’s disease, as a sign of gratitude and appreciation to all of his fans. It was later revealed that G-Dragon’s fan club had donated 8.18 million won, an additional 10 per cent of his initial donation to the same charity organisation.
However, nowadays, fans are also using rice as a means of both donating to a good cause and as a way of showing their devotion as true fans. Fans of Korean stars purchase wreaths made up of large bags of rice - often dubbed “fan rice” - that are then donated to local charities in stars’ names.
Last year, 50 Big Bang fan clubs from across the world lined the Olympic Park Gymnastics Stadium with 12.7 tons of rice to mark the launch of the group’s world tour, setting new heights for K-pop fandom.
US$1 = 1,060 won