All board members of the Community Chest of Korea, the nation's only legal charity, have decided to resign, taking responsibility for the recently revealed series of corruption cases involving its employees, the CCK said Sunday.
The nationwide charity network, better known as "Sarangeui Yeolmae," or fruit of love, has faltered under growing public criticism since its internal inquiry discovered in October that some officials in its regional branches were implicated in several cases of embezzlement and corruption in recent years.
"All the 20 board members, including its chairman Yoon Byung-chul and secretary-general Park Eul-dong, have decided to step down en masse, taking responsibility for the series of (corruption) cases related to the charity," said the CCK in a statement.
CCK vice chairperson Lee Kyung-sook, who has also expressed intention to resign, will remain in the charity until it finishes forming a new board of directors, officials said.
Lee also serves as chairperson of the state-run Korea Student Aid Foundation.
The CCK board is comprised of 18 directors and two auditors.
Their term lasts for three years and they can serve for up to two terms.
The CCK secretary-general underscored that the most urgent task for the charity now is to regain public trust and shore up its tarnished image.
"Due to these disturbing instances the amount of donations has been decreasing. For our faults, we should be whipped. It is very regrettable that our poor neighbors felt the consequences since the number of hands reaching out to them has decreased," Park said in an interview.
"Regaining public trust should come first before conducting any administrative reform. By showing that we take responsibility for the cases, we may lay the groundwork for gaining the trust from the people."
Yoon also issued a statement containing his apology to the public.
"While they forgot their duty, such cases of moral laxity, which should not have ever happened, took place. I feel sorry and deeply frustrated. All is due to my lack of discretion and I bear responsibility," he said.
The charity began the process of forming a new board.
It has formed an emergency committee comprising six members, led by former Justice Minister Chung Sung-jin, to discuss measures to reform the charity.
The committee will discuss the formation of the new board, the establishment of an "integrity committee" and other measures to overhaul the institution.
The charity, under the supervision of the Health Ministry, was established in 1998 under the law on public fund-raising that offers the organization income tax deductions for individual donations as well as for corporations.
Amid growing donations by individuals including celebrities and business people, the amount of money donated through the organization has increased to 267.5 billion won (S$306 million) in 2007, 270.3 billion won (S$309 million) in 2008 and 331.9 billion won (S$380 million) last year.
However, following the disclosure of the corruption cases, the sum of the donations began decreasing with some canceling their donation plans, officials said.
-The Korea Herald/Asia News Network