Elderly couple donates W7.5 bil. to KAIST

November 21, 2015
Lee Seung-wong, 74, left, and Cho Jeong-ja, 72. (Courtesy of KAIST)

Lee Seung-wong, 74, left, and Cho Jeong-ja, 72. (Courtesy of KAIST)

By Jhoo Dong-chan

A couple in their 70s has donated 7.5 billion won ($6.4 million) to the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), the nation’s top science university.

According to KAIST, the couple living in Uijeongbu, Gyeonggi Province ― Lee Seung-wong, 74, and Cho Jeong-ja, 72 ― will donate 7.5 billion won of their real estate holdings, including a building in Seongbuk-gu, northeastern Seoul, to KAIST.

“We have lived frugally and saved our money,” the couple said. “But we can’t spend it all. We want KAIST to spend our money on educating Korea’s scientists for the future.”

The couple decided to donate their property when they got married.

“Of course, I wanted to drink or hang out with my friends every once in a while,” Lee said. “But I decided to save my money, penny by penny, to help others in need.”

Starting his career as a delivery man, Lee said there are few jobs that he has not tried.

“At first, I chided my husband for his stinginess,” Cho said. “But later I found myself ransacking the markets to find the cheapest groceries.”

Lee originally planned to donate the couple’s property to a charity helping children without parents, or to a nursing home. But Cho suggested giving it to the nation’s top science university to help make the country better.

“My husband is a man of his word,” Cho said. “Today is the happiest day of my life as we have kept our wedding promise.”

During the ceremony for their donation on the campus in Daejeon, Monday, KAIST officials gave the couple two pairs of shoes as a token of gratitude for their lifetime effort and dedication to education.

“I would like to express my deepest appreciation and respect to the couple,” KAIST President Kang Sung-mo said during the ceremony. “They have decided to donate their property for education without a second thought.

“We will do our best to educate the world’s best scientists with the couple’s donation.”

The property will be transferred to the university when the couple passes away.