Self-made business woman returns fortune to society

You Hyun-ju

Earning money is not just about acquiring personal wealth for You Hyun-ju.

The self-made businesswoman returned her 7 billion won (S$7.98 million) poultry business to society in 2011 in the form of social enterprise.

She uses 70 per cent of its profits for charity and public causes. Nearly half of her employees are poor, elderly and social vulnerable people.

"There is no such thing as ownership over money. We can only keep it temporarily," the chief executive of Doome Sangol Farming told The Korea Herald.

Her generosity earned her the prime minister's award last week in a ceremony to mark Businesswomen's Day.

Her company in Jeonju, North Jeolla Province, makes and distributes food products from chickens and ducks from its own farms. It does not use antibiotics harmful to the environment, while trying to maintain the best sanitary conditions.

In 2011, You registered the highly profitable corporation as a social enterprise.

Social enterprises receive three years of government support for employees' pay and advertising. In return, they are required to employ people in need and donate two-thirds of profits for public purposes.

It was not an easy decision for her. It was not because of the required donation, but because charity efforts should be publicly released.

"A social enterprise has to disclose assets and prove donations through receipts. I didn't want to show off what I did," she said.

The company has grown from a small chicken store she started up two decades ago with a private loan of 5 million won.

"Cutting off thousands of chicken heads every day, I suddenly wondered what I was living for. I started to contemplate what I could do for society," she said.

One of her ways of helping others was hiring the needy, elderly, disabled and people from multicultural families. Such underprivileged employees now make up 17 out of 40 in her company.

She gives top priority to the welfare of her employees. The company offers free Korean language courses to female Southeast Asian workers and takes care of their families as well.

She currently studies social welfare at a three-year graduate course at Chonbuk National University. She hopes to teach students after getting a doctorate and open up a retirement community or a sanatorium someday in the future, she said.

"My ultimate goal is to make the workplace an intimate community where everyone can joyfully work and share love. I'm still thinking what kind of welfare I can provide for them."

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