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Wealth donations

Founder of Korea’s top delivery app Baemin to donate over half his wealth

By Feb 18, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

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Baemin founder Kim Bong-jin and his wife Sul Bomi
Baemin founder Kim Bong-jin and his wife Sul Bomi

Kim Bong-jin, founder of South Korea’s top food delivery app Baedal Minjok, or Baemin in short, has committed to donating more than half of his wealth to philanthropic causes.

With the commitment to return over half of his estimated wealth of 1 trillion won ($905 million), Kim will become the 219th signatory to The Giving Pledge, a global charity campaign, and the first Korean billionaire joining the club.

“My wife Bomi Sul and I hereby pledge that we will return more than half of our wealth to society during our lifetime,” Kim said in a message posted on The Giving Pledge website on Feb. 18.

“We are certain that this pledge is the greatest inheritance that we could provide for our children.”

The Giving Pledge, created by Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates, his wife Melinda Gates and Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett, is a global campaign for the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to dedicate the majority of their wealth to giving back.

Signatories to the charitable giving movement include Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, American film director George Lucas, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and former Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg.

About 75% of the 219 members are self-made billionaires.

Kim, chief executive of Woowa Brothers Corp., the operator of the food delivery app Baemin, said their pledge for giving is a public confession that “our fortune is a combination of God’s blessings, gifts of life, and support from many people that goes beyond one’s competence or hard work.”

Citing a quote from John Rawls, an American moral and political philosopher, he said: “I think wealth is truly valuable when it is distributed for the greatest benefit to the least advantaged members of society.”

HUMBLE BEGINNING

Kim said his “humble beginning” started on a small island in Korea, where during his high school years he had to wait for dinner guests to leave the living room because there wasn’t a proper bedroom for him.

He could barely afford the tuition to make his way through an art college and having accomplished as much as he has now “can only be explained by good luck and God’s grace,” he said.

Founder of Korea’s top delivery app Baemin to donate over half his wealth

In 2017, he committed to donating about $9 million and kept the promise, which he said was “the best decision of his life.” The donation is being used to help delivery riders pay for their health care and living costs.

Kim said he hopes his latest commitment to philanthropy will address social issues such as educational inequality and assistance to art and cultural activities.

“It is our humble wish to use our power, albeit small, to address perceptive and institutional obstacles that hinder the culture of giving,” he said.

Having majored in interior design at Seoul Institute of the Arts, Kim worked at design firm Emotion, game developer Neowiz and Internet portal Naver Corp. before launching Woowa Brothers in 2010.

A DREAM COME TRUE

In December 2019, Woowa Brothers agreed to sell the food delivery app Baemin to Germany’s Delivery Hero SE for $4.3 billion on the regulatory condition that the German company divest of a big chunk of its existing stake in Yogiyo, Korea’s second-largest food delivery app, to avoid a market monopoly.

Kim’s latest donation commitment follows a similar move by Brian Kim (Kim Beom-su), chairman and founder of Kakao Corp., Korea’s mobile platform giant.

Founder of Korea’s top delivery app Baemin to donate over half his wealth

The Kakao chief said on Feb. 8 that he would donate more than 5 trillion won, or half of his estimated wealth of over 10 trillion won to address social issues.

“Ten years ago, when I was running a small company of fewer than twenty employees, I read an article about Bill Gates and Warren Buffet making the pledge and had a wild dream of one day making the pledge myself,” said Kim Bong-jin of Woowa Brothers.

“It is very overwhelming that I am making such a pledge, today. I would be delighted if the dream I once had could be the dream of many more founders who are trying to change the world.”

Write to Joo-Wan Kim at kjwan@hankyung.com

In-Soo Nam edited this article.

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