My mother taught me the importance of serving others and has always been my role model. As the wife of Soo-Keon Kim, the founder of Daesung, the Korean energy conglomerate, she refused a life of extravagance and instead led a humble, modest life of giving. She had a very strong Christian faith that led her to help thousands of orphans and widows from South Korea. Not only did she save them from horrific fates, she fed, educated and also created skill-set training like sewing, so that the women and children could make an honest livelihood for themselves. When my mother passed away, after having been in a coma for over eight years, I was so moved by the thousands of people who came to her funeral. One man came up to me and proudly introduced me to his family. He told me my mother had saved him from being kidnapped by gangsters, she educated him and his family and he would never forget her. Another lady told me that my mother had help her escape from being kidnapped and thrown into a life of prostitution, had educated her and saved her life. This is the amazing legacy my mother gave to me, to help as many women and children I can. She's my hero.
Inspired by my mother's extraordinary work, my personal motto and mission is "succeed to serve." When it comes to charity work, I often tell my daughter that life shouldn't be lived for how much money, power or fame you get but the difference you can make in life.
Giving back to society is essential to me and to put this into practice and to be more systematic, I established a charitable foundation in 2009. My foundation endorses 80 NGOs domestically and internationally. I also believe that empowering women both the current and upcoming generation is essential. Society tends to think the women have it all, but if you look closely there's still so much that needs to be done.
My foundation's core activities have been organized around three themes: Women's economic empowerment; North Korean humanitarian initiatives; and Christian field support.
Women's economic empowerment: My foundation has pledged $1m over the course of 10 years to the Global Summit of Women (GSW) which is an annual conference conceived as the nexus where public, private and non-profit sectors unite under the vision of expanding women's economic opportunities globally. In association with the Korea Woman Journalists Association, my foundation co-launched a scholarship program designed to send up-and-coming women journalists for overseas training, the result of which has been increased entrepreneurship and competitiveness, and has proven to be a sustainable platform for effective talent development. My foundation likewise launched the Global Women Leadership Program which is a quarterly activity fostering an environment where budding female leaders have the opportunity to learn from current female leaders within the context of advocacy, mentoring and sustainable leadership development.
North Korean humanitarian initiatives: As a dedicated trustee of World Vision, my foundation has provided aid and medical mission support for North Korea where more than 22m of its citizens are in dire need of aid. Though World Vision, we have established food factories, and likewise provided tuberculosis medical relief for North Korean refugees. We also support educational development through founding elementary schools for younger children while providing modernized up-to-date textbooks and materials, and have likewise worked to establish an official University in Pyongyang.
Christian field support: Through Christian networks worldwide, my foundation supports community programs and the provision of food for the handicapped, underprivileged and small countries in desperate need. We also provide immediate relief and aid to victims of natural disasters through partnerships with ministries around the globe.
This may surprise you, but my ultimate goal when I step down is to become a missionary for North Korea and use my earnings for humanitarian support. But perhaps it is not so surprising, when you look at my mother's impressive legacy.
Sung-Joo Kim is a featured speaker at the APEC Women Leadership Forum 2014, 20-22 August 2014 in Beijing. For more information, please visit here.