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Foreign firms reach out to needy -Korea Herald(June 12, 2004)-

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Foreign firms reach out to needy    

                                                                                                                                                                                               Korea Herald, June 12, 2004

A number of multinational companies are offering Koreans more than their products by lending a helping hand in the education sector and offering scholarships and vocational training programs.

The increasing number of foreign companies now involved with donations is signaling a new corporate-community culture, with the programs not only helping society, but also improving the image of their businesses.

The trend grew after the 1997 financial crisis in Korea, which caused a rapid rise in unemployment and underemployment.

One of the first organizations to cut the tape was the American Chamber of Commerce, which raised about $1 million in 2000 and started the Partners for the Future Foundation, a non-profit group.

The foundation provides vocational training, job fairs, internship programs and scholarships for the underprivileged.

"Having suffered from polio as a child, I still cannot use my legs freely. AMCHAM`s gift of a name-stamp carving machine and a watch repair machine has been a tremendous help to my life. I cannot thank them enough," said Jung-ho Kim, a graduate of Home of Love, a program introduced here by the Partners for Future Foundation.

Now among the frontrunners is Pfizer Korea, a world leader in pharmaceuticals, which started its "Scholarship of Love" in September 2002.

Pfizer officials said the program was established to help students in need of financial aid due to economic difficulties following the nation`s long-term economic slump.

The scholarship is generated through individual contributions from employees, who volunteer to subtract a certain amount from their pay on a monthly basis. Pfizer then gives an equal amount to the donation from the workers which is added into the foundation.

Through this program, Pfizer Korea said it has given more than 100 million won worth of scholarships to about 10 students each year. This year, 11 students have benefited from the program so far.

The donations are made through the Partners for the Future Foundation. Other multinational companies, such as Proctor & Gamble Korea and AIG General Insurance, later joined in by adopting the joint management-worker donation system.

"Raising a promising youth society is fundamentally contributing to the growth of Korean society," said Curtis Andrews, president of Pfizer Korea.

Hewlett-Packard is also reaching the non-profit sector by conducting an educational-industrial service with Korean universities to develop the local information industry.

Last year, HP contributed 200 million won worth of personal computers, servers and network devices to Seoul National University to establish the "HP Multimedia lecture room." The company also runs internship programs as well as participating in the curriculum by providing special lectures based on its high-tech expertise.

Another company joining the wave of donations is DaimlerChrysler Korea, which provides scholarships to both Korean and U.S. soldiers stationed here. It said it will give about $10,000 worth of scholarships to selected beneficiaries each year.

Toyota Motor Korea is reaching out to the cultural sector by opening music, education and sports-related programs such as Toyota Classic, Youth for Understanding Korea training camps, Lexus Charity Golf, concerts and other educational-industrial projects.

Toyota officials said they have conducted donation programs under the philosophy of becoming a "good corporate citizen" since the company entered the Korean market.

By Lee Joo-hee (angiely@heraldm.com)


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