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Korean makes room in his heart for Chinese orphans
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He may not be Chinese, but he has touched the hearts of hundreds of thousands of Chinese people.

On the wall of his office hangs a plaque bearing the names of 13 of the orphans who have received help from him. Beside it hangs a diploma proclaiming him to be one of the 10 people who received the "Touching Tianjin Award" last year.

"I'm not Chinese, but the people of Tianjin gave me such a big honor," Kim Yeong-rea, the 55-year-old general manager of Silver Star Electronics Metal Co Ltd, said.

Kim is from the Republic of Korea and started his company six years ago in the northern coastal city of Tianjin. Short, with a square face, he seems almost reluctant to talk about his accomplishments because, he said: "I don't help people for the publicity."

In 2004, he started sponsoring 13 impoverished orphans in Tianjin. That number has since increased to 18. The youngest is seven, and the eldest 17.

Kim said he was set to expand that number to 30.

"I'm going to build a dormitory building in my company to accommodate these children. They can eat with us and talk with us whenever they want," Kim said.

Every month, Kim gives every child 300 yuan ($40) for their living expenses.

"But money is not the only thing, these children need care," he said.

So on the first Saturday of every month, Kim invites all the children to his company for dinner. He asks them about school and their personal lives. He gives them books and pencils at the beginning of every semester and recording devices to those who would like to learn English.

"I often tell these boys and girls that poverty is a challenge they will overcome if they are strong and diligent," Kim said. "But I also tell them I'm their father and I'll help them whenever necessary."

He said he never thinks about how much money he spends on these children.

"If I did that, it would show that I'm not helping them sincerely," he said.

Sixteen-year-old Wang Lei is one of Kim's wards. Her parents left her a few years ago because of illness. She had been living with her grandfather, who lived on only 100 yuan per month.

"My grandpa also needs money for medication. Life was hopeless for me at that time," the girl said. "I often had dried buns for lunch and the most delicious food for me was fried eggs."

Her prayers were answered about a year ago, when Kim appeared in her life. Suddenly, Wang no longer had to worry about food, clothes or books.

"To be honest, I never imagined I would receive help from a foreigner. I really feel grateful," she said. "I wish to one day be an architectural student at Tianjin University. If that happened, I'd tell Kim that his help changed a girl's life."

Kim was inspired to reach out to China's orphans when the community organized an activity to help the poor in 2004. His own experience also encouraged him to help these children.

"I had a very poor life when I was young. I had to work during the day and attend school at night to finish my studies," he said. "But these children are poorer still because they don't even have parents."

Kim said he also felt a sense of obligation to give something back to the community, even though he is from another country.

"Love goes beyond boundaries, and the world is a village," he said.

Kim said Tianjin had developed very quickly in recent years, though he wished the city were much cleaner. He said having clean air will be particularly important during the football matches for next year's Olympic Games, which will be played in Tianjin.

He also said China still lags behind South Korea in the area of charitable giving.

(China Daily November 15, 2007)

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