Korean Friendship Bell Preservation Committee caught in donation controversy

June 18, 2014

The Korean Friendship Bell Preservation Committee oversees the Korean Bell of Friendship inside Angel’s Gate Park in San Pedro, (Korea Times file)

The Korean Friendship Bell Preservation Committee, which oversees the Korean Bell of Friendship inside Angel’s Gate Park in San Pedro, admitted Monday that it used donations collected to help preserve the bell for other means.

Of the $30,000 it raised from a fundraising golf tournament held in May for the preservation of the bell, the committee reportedly used $2,000 for meals and event fees.

The money included individual and business donations from the Korean community as well as a $10,000 donation from Yoo Seung-won, vice president of the National Unification Advisory Council in Los Angeles.

An unnamed associate said it was a trust fund gathered through hard work by the Korean community and that no part of should have been used.

According to the associate, seven of the eight committee members present during a June 12 meeting to discuss the use of the donations agreed that donations could be used for operating expenses.

“It worries me that the majority of the members voted to keep using the money, as it means it’ll most likely be used for other purposes than toward the goal of preserving the bell,” the associate said.

While the committee accepted its use of a portion of the donations for operating expenses, it denied using any of it toward anything other than bell-related business.

Park Sang-joon, committee chairman, said $1,000 went toward preparation meetings for the reopening ceremony of the bell after its restoration last year, $500 toward events at the ceremony and $500 toward a variety of expenses during the day of the ceremony.

“We had to use the donation money because we hadn’t properly collected member fees and had no other choice. When we collect those fees this year, we’ll put back the $2,000,” Park said.

The committee was started in 2006 and requires each member to pay a yearly fee of $200.

Park said the money will be used toward promotion of the bell and its preservation fees, as well as for the three events put on by the committee each year.

Other associates, however, say donations from the community should be purely reserved for preserving and restoring fees and nothing else, including promotions and events.

“If the consulate-general had been the ones to manage the money, do you think it would have been used? It was wrong to use funds collected to preserve and manage the friendship bell without notice, even if they were short on operating money,” another unnamed associate said.

The Korean government provided a combined $325,000 over two donations to help renovate the entire facade of the friendship bell in 2011 and 2013.

“The committee needs to be transparent and reveal how it’s using the donation money,” the associate said. “It needs to find a way to prevent it from happening again.”

One Comment

  1. Edward

    June 18, 2014 at 6:02 PM

    $2k in administrative expenses? That sounds about right. This article looks like a bunch of something over nothing.