Shoeshiner donates land to help fight coronavirus


A South Korean shoeshiner and repairman has donated his hard-earned land to the local city government to aid a community struggling to stay afloat amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Sixty-year-old Kim Byung-rok bought the 8-acre open space on a quiet mountain in Paju, some 19 miles northwest of Seoul, six years ago.

He wanted to enjoy the fresh air, away from his dirt-heavy daily grind.

After learning fellow citizens were struggling to manage the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic and shutting their businesses, Kim decided to donate his land to Paju’s city government.

The government, which is looking to sell the land for 500-700 million won ($407,000-570,000), has promised to use the money to help those in need and revive the local economy.

“I went through a rough childhood and I got help from others all the time. I’ve always thought I should one day become a person who helps others,” Kim said at his Seoul shop.  

Kim’s donation offers a glimmer of hope to South Koreans, whose news feeds have been filled with soaring fatalities and gloomy economic prospects as of late.

An online media story about him has garnered messages from more than 2,100 readers, some of which call him “an angel.”

Kim suggested that his critics, who tell him to “take care of (his own) children first,” do not really care about him. “I have lived my life this way. I am addicted to helping others,” he added.

South Korea has reported over 9,600 cases of the new coronavirus and 158 deaths.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks.

For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and could lead to death.

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