[Courtesy of Samsung Group]
Samsung Group marked a significant milestone on Tuesday as it celebrated the 30th anniversary of Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance Guide Dog School, an institution founded by its late Chairman Lee Kun-hee.
The event, held in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province, brought together a group of participants, including Samsung Electronics Executive Chairman Jay Y. Lee and his mother Hong Ra-hee, former head of Leeum Museum of Art, and Health and Welfare Minister Cho Kyoo-hong, to commemorate the occasion.
At the heart of the event was a reflection on the school’s remarkable journey, with attendees paying tribute to the vision and commitment of Lee Kun-hee.
His previously unpublished essay, “Conversations with Small Things,” revealed insights into the genesis of the school in 1993. In this essay, Lee expressed his belief that small beginnings could lead to significant societal changes, saying, “Although we may be labeled idealists or fools who do not understand reality at present, we will undoubtedly be acknowledged as right in ten or twenty years.”
Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance Guide Dog School, established in 1994, has since provided 12 to 15 guide dogs annually, totaling 280 guide dogs to date, with 76 actively serving at present.
Lee Kun-hee’s commitment to the school’s founding mission persisted despite societal skepticism that prioritized donations to the impoverished over the guide dog initiative.
During the early years, when the sight-impaired faced numerous challenges, including restrictions on guide dog-assisted air travel, Lee Kun-hee’s essay documented the moment when a visually impaired individual successfully boarded an aircraft with a guide dog.
Lee recalled, “In 1995, armed with foreign precedents and international legal research, our employees convinced airlines to allow guide dogs on board. This marked a new era for guide dog use in public transportation.”
Guide dogs require ongoing care and support throughout their 10-year lifespan on average, encompassing training, active duty, and retirement. Samsung Group’s guide dog school has fundamentally shifted societal attitudes toward community service over its 30-year history.
Contributions include socializing puppies, managing guide dogs, and adopting retired guide dogs, involving over 2,000 households and 300 dedicated volunteers.
The initiative’s impact extends to legislative changes as well, with legal revisions enabling visually impaired individuals to use public transportation and access public spaces without discrimination.
These changes also include exemptions for guide dogs from rabies virus checks at airports, making travel more accessible, and fostering a more inclusive society.
The commemorative event featured unexpected appearances by Samsung Chairman Jay Y. Lee and former Leeum Museum of Art head Hong, both expressing their heartfelt commitment to the guide dog school project.
The event also welcomed dedicated volunteers, visually impaired partners, adoptive families of retired guide dogs, as well as Minister Cho, Representative Kim Yae-ji of the People Power Party, Representative Bae Jin-kyo of the Justice Party, and Samsung Fire & Marine CEO Hong Won-hak.
William Thornton, CEO of the International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF), acknowledged Samsung’s sincere efforts in training guide dogs over the past three decades and congratulated the transformation of Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance Guide Dog School into a global institution.
Park Tae-jin, principal of Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance Guide Dog School, emphasized that Lee Kun-hee’s vision, beliefs, and the love and dedication of many people had made the guide dog initiative possible, promising continued dedication to this inspiring journey.
By Choi Seung-jin and Minu Kim
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