The following story, is reposted from the GPF-Korea blog. It is an example of how simple but everyday efforts can make a big difference. As the Korean United campaign continues, let’s remember, it’s not always about grand gestures, sometimes it just takes one cent accumulated over time, and a heart full of love to make a difference.

[This is Director Park]:  Mr. Sun Seung Kang’s One Cent

March 13, 2013

Good Morning, this is Director Park.

The famous Korean poet, Do HyunAhn once wrote:

“연탄재 함부로 차지마라

너는 누구에게 한 번이라도 뜨거운 사람이었느냐”

“Never kick a lump of coal.

Has your heart ever burned for someone?”


Cylinder coal briquettes are important to sustain life in rural and poorer areas of Korea.  Even in the old days, they relied on cylinder coal briquettes.  Just a couple of briquettes a day can heat up the ondol floor.

I remember closing the vent when the floor felt too hot. The floor would cool down to just the right temperature, and we would stay toasty during long winter nights. I have fond memories sitting with my family, our feet tucked under a blanket as we ate roasted sweet potatoes and talked about nothing.

In my college years, I lived in a basement apartment.  The fumes of the coal briquette made me feel nauseous.

One cylinder costs 500 won (50 cents). A cylinder-coal briquette delivery person makes 100 won (10 cents) a briquette, excluding the cost of fuel.

Recently, there was an article in The Chosun Daily that talked about a coal briquette delivery man who had donated almost 8000 dollars by saving one cent from each cylinder he delivered.

Mr. Sun Seung Kang’ has raised almost $8000 from saving one cent from each cylinder of coal that he delivers to support children's education.

Mr. Sun Seung Kang’ has raised almost $8000 from saving one cent from each cylinder of coal that he delivers to support children’s education.

Mr. Sun Seung Kang from Hwacheon-gun, Kangwon Province, delivers cylinder-coal briquettes to homes.

Mr. Kang grew up in a poor family that couldn’t even afford to send him to elementary school. But he always had a desire to learn.

So, he began saving one cent per cylinder to raise money to support children who cannot afford to go to school.

To date, he has donated $7,960 dollars.  From each cylinder he delivers, he saves one cent. That means he has delivered 796,000 briquettes.

Delivering the briquettes is really hard work. The briquettes are not light. One briquette weighs about 3.5kg, the same as a newborn. Most neighborhoods that still use cylinder-coal briquettes to heat their homes are located on hills and small alleys which are not accessible by car. He is more than 70 years old, but he still delivers the briquettes one by one.

The money he saves is hard earned with his sweat.

These days, nobody really bothers to stop and pick up one cent off the street. It is almost as if one cent is not worth the effort to kneel and pick it up.

A recent post of mine entitled,  ‘Mother-in-law and Waste Papers’  talks about a similar story of small amounts, earned through hard word, that makes a big difference.

One might think that it is only a briquette of coal, or a ream of waste paper.

But each cent accumulated is so precious. Each cent is earned through the sweat and heart of someone who is thinking of another.

This morning Do Hyun Ahn’s poem resonates in my heart.

“너는 누구에게 한 번이라도 뜨거운 사람이었느냐”

Has your heart ever burned for someone?


Kyung Suk Park
Global Peace Foundation