These Korean stars give back

April 14, 2014

Kim Soo-hyun, Park Hae-jin, Song Hye-gyo, Jang Keun-suk tops recent list

From left, Kim Soo-hyun, Park Hae-jin, Song Hye-gyo and Jang Keun-suk are among hallyu celebrities who are winning over the hearts of their overseas fans for their charitable or philanthropic activities. (Korea Times file)

From left, Kim Soo-hyun, Park Hae-jin, Song Hye-gyo and Jang Keun-suk are among hallyu celebrities who are winning over the hearts of their overseas fans for their charitable or philanthropic activities. (Korea Times file)

By Chung Ah-young

Hollywood star Angelina Jolie, known as one of the most philanthropic celebrities, once said that she “opened her eyes” when she saw people from the war-ravaged region while filming “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” in Cambodia in 2001.

Since then, she has turned into a role model for many people around the world by actively volunteering in humanitarian works worldwide.

Stars might be the most perfect figures to increase public awareness through their charitable endeavors and stimulate donations.

How about Korean stars? They have often tapped into their popularity in other countries for commercial purposes.

Sometimes, they have left negative images for their foreign fans after just raking in money from their commercial activities, such as advertisements or appearances on TV shows. In that case, their popularity has just waned quickly.

Chen Lizhi, CEO of Max Times, a Chinese entertainment company, said on his recent visit to Korea that Korean actors quickly gain popularity, but lose it almost as fast because some just come to China to make money.

“Chinese actors take part in charitable events without financial rewards or even donate money to the event, but Korean stars rarely participate in such activities,” he said.

He also pointed out that many Chinese stars, such as Andy Lau, Jet Li and Jackie Chan, have actively engaged in social welfare projects such as establishing charities. For their social commitments, even though their heydays have already gone, they still have strong support from the public.

But not all Korean stars are money-chasers. A growing number of hallyu celebrities are winning over the hearts of their fans by actively joining charitable or philanthropic events, and helping the needy in other countries where there are a large number of supporters.

Engaging in humanitarian campaigns is becoming essential, not optional, for hallyu stars if they genuinely want to maintain their fan base for the long-term.

Actor Park Hae-jin, who appears on SBS’s sensational drama series “Man from another star,” became the first Korean star to be honored by the Chinese Civil Awards, which were held in Beijing on March 18.

Park attended the award ceremony, along with Chinese stars who contribute to social welfare every year. Park was recognized for his charitable events both in Korea and China over the last five years. He gave some 20 million won ($19,237) to China’s earthquake victims last year.

Top Chinese stars such as Fan Bing Bing, Hai Qing, Yang Mi, and Chen Su won last year’s awards. The winners are decided by the quality of dramas or films that the actors and actresses appear in, their popularity and their influence in China.

According to the WM Company, Park’s agency, he received a lot of attention from Chinese media outlets and the public as he was the first Korean to join the Chinese winners’ list.

Also, Kim Soo-hyun, who is now on a tour of Asia, has wrapped up his visit to China with a special event. On April 8, he donated some 1.2 million yuan ($193,000) to the China Children & Teenagers’ Fund from a Gucci charity event.

Key East, his agency, said that Kim wants to give back the love he gets from Chinese fans. “I am very glad to join this meaningful work to help needy children improve their living conditions,” Kim said through his agency.

Jang Keun-suk donated 100 million won ($96,200) to flood victims in the Philippines through UNICEF after last year’s Typhoon Haiyan.

Lee Young-ae, a heroine of “Jewel in the Palace,” is one of the most beloved hallyu stars as she has passionately contributed to charity projects in China.

She has donated funds to schools and hospitals. For example, she helped a school which was on the verge of closure in China in 2006 with a donation. The elementary school was later renamed Lee Young-ae Elementary School.

Song Hye-gyo has recently appeared in a Doosan Group TV campaign advertisement featuring Chinese children.

The advertisement, “The Future Lies with Children,” was well-received in China and she donated her model fees to help build an elementary school there.

The group has supported establishing elementary schools in the underdeveloped regions in China since 2001.

Last year, Kim Hyun-joong donated 100 million won ($96,200) to One Foundation, a charity organization in China established in 2007 by martial artist and actor Jet Li.  His donation was used to help earthquake victims.