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New Wave of Donation

December, the last month of the year, is also the month when people’s donations flourish. People can easily see the Salvation Army’s red charity pots on the street and hear the shouting, “Share the spirit of the season with others!” There are also numerous campaigns such as Christmas seals aimed to raise funds and awareness towards unique charitable programs. Despite these campaigns, however, Korea is referred to as one of the countries with a low donation rate. Fortunately, the trend of donation is changing. Compared to the crude collection boxes of the past, donations combined with Internet Technology (IT) techniques, and several campaigns drawing people’s interest are inviting people to donations. In this article, the Sungkyun Times (SKT) explores the donation culture in Korea and suggests the novel forms of donation, which can encourage Kingos to become more involved.

How are donations made in Korea?

Most donors in Korea are not regular donors. Rather than long-term donations, donation is a one-time thing for most people. Representatively, the subjects of donations are divided into two: individuals and corporate bodies. Giving money directly to facilities or buying charity items are common ways to donate individually. Corporate bodies need to be authorized by the government to raise money for donations. Even if a corporate body works similarly to an individual human being, it is still classified as an association. Therefore, corporate bodies need more restrictions compared to individuals.

Unfortunately, Korea has been known as a non-active country in donation. The Ministry of Health and Welfare also reported that the participation from people whose income classification is Level 6 (receiving a monthly income between \5.4 - 6.2 million) dropped dropped from 58% in 2009, to 51% in 2016. This figure is a loss for the donation industry considering that people in Level 6 classification are the middle class in the socio-economic hierarchy. Moreover, Korea ranked 74th among 140 countries in domestic donation participation in a research conducted by Charity Aid Foundation (CAF), a registered British charity. Analyzing these surveys, it is clear that Korea has a significantly low donation participation rate. Other problems that Korea is facing are a lack of tax cut in donation and the low level of awareness. The low tax cut in donation poses such a serious problem that there is even a saying, “I’m going abroad to donate money to avoid tax.” Individuals can have their tax cut to a maximum of 20% if they donate for public purposes. If an organization attempts to gain tax cuts, it must be registered as a corporate body. Even after an organization is registered, only five percent of tax cut will be granted, which is relatively low compared to other developed countries. The other problem mentioned is about the low level of awareness. People inwardly distrust and doubt the usage of contributions. Moreover, some people do not donate due to complicated donation processes.

Working Out Solutions

To solve the problems of donation, many solutions are being considered. One of the proposed solutions is the “donation pension system.” The donation pension system was established to prevent large donors from being struck by a tax bomb after donating money. The main content of the system provides that if a person donates money or properties, the donor will be returned 30 - 50% of the donation as a pension. This system is not enforced yet, but it is meaningful in that the government is trying to prepare a solution for the tax cut problem. The other solution is the enactment of trusts for public interest. Trust is a legal term which refers to allowing a person to manage or dispose of another’s assets. Public trust is a specific kind of trust which has usage in public donations rather than being used for increasing one’s assets. The Trust Act integrated a complicated process and introduced a system of public announcement for a more transparent management.


Some developed countries have been trying to solve these kinds of problems much earlier than Korea. Countries such as the United States (US) and Australia are well known for their donation powers. The US has led the spread of donations through the realization of noblesse oblige, the concept in which the wealthy must aid the poor by virtue of their position. The Giving Pledge is a worldwide organization which was started by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. Billionaires around the world publicly pledged to donate more than half of their properties to charitable causes, and the Giving Pledge helped the public become more familiar with donating. In Australia, donations are accepted as a daily life culture more commonly called a gold coin donation. This comes from the practice of donating a one or two Australian dollar coin. Australia has also been educating children to donate by using the children’s surroundings, such as holding a bake sale and donating the profits to fix a school playground. These examples set by foreign countries show that donations are not just about giving away large sums of money, but that systematic education is needed to make people familiar with donations from a young age.

Donation + Technology

The biggest change in the 21st century is the development of IT, which also affected the field of donation. The combination of IT and donations helped to improve and adapt donation methods in modern society. The most significant improvements are increasing participation rates and the improved awareness that donations can be made with just one click on smartphones. As more than 30 million people use smartphones in modern days, using Social Networking Services (SNS) for donation is becoming a new trend, and it allows people to donate regardless of when or where they are. By making up for the limits of the traditional offline donation channel, the foundation of donation culture is expected to expand. Two aspects of donation combined with technology are using SNS to encourage people to donate, and “funation.”

On October 20, a fundraiser was held for Hyeon Hee Shim, who is suffering from neurofibromatosis, a benign tumor of the nervous system. This project was made on the Facebook page of Milal Welfare Foundation, and with more than five million people participating, the donation was more than successful. Utilizing SNS for donations increased the participation of people in their twenties, who used to have the lowest participation rate, accounting for 24.8% of all age groups. Thanks to features such as “liking,” “retweeting,” and “sharing,” SNS can deliver contents easily to unspecified individuals, and have more impact as well, since it uses various methods like pictures and videos.

Recently, a concept called funation appeared in Korea. Funation is a compound word of “fun” and “donation,” which means donating while having fun. Funation arose from the social consciousness where people are now interested in how to donate rather than how much to donate. The most popular example of funation is Tree Planet. It is a mobile game that grows trees on a virtual space map. Players can select regions like China, Nepal, or Africa, where tree shortages are an increasing problem, and then carry out missions to plant trees. The main feature of Tree Planet is that trees planted in the game are also planted in the real-life regions that the player chooses. More than 43 million trees have been planted all over the world thanks to Tree Planet.


Warren Buffett, who is well known for donating a vast majority of his wealth to society, once said that “Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” This quote shows that donations clearly have positive effects by helping people in need. Furthermore, donations would bring more meaning to your life. Through this article, the SKT hopes that Kingos can have an opportunity to recognize the novel forms of donation, and to try them out. How about taking more interest in the people around us and warm up this winter

이정현  cathie3526@naver.com

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