SEOUL, Sept. 20 (Korea Bizwire) – The Samsung Guide Dog School (SGDS) is celebrating its 30th anniversary. It was started by the late Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Kun-hee, who was a dog lover. Over the past 30 years, SGDS has increased awareness about disabilities and guide dogs and has become an important part of Samsung’s charitable efforts.
Lee had a love for dogs from a young age. He got his first dog, a Pekingese, while studying in Japan as a child. This experience made him realize that dogs and humans could communicate, and he wrote in one of his essays that dogs could be more than just friends; they could have a mental connection with humans.
He was particularly interested in the Jindo dog, which is native to Korea. He even bred these dogs himself and registered them with the World Kennel Club. In the late 1960s, he traveled to Jindo, Korea, and brought back 30 Jindo dogs to breed. Over the years, he showed great dedication to creating purebred Jindo dogs.
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of SGDS, Samsung held a ceremony at the Samsung Fire Guide Dog School in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province. Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Jae-yong and Hong Rah-hee, the late Lee Kun-hee’s wife, attended the event and reflected on Samsung’s 30 years of charitable work.
SGDS was established in 1993, following Lee Kun-hee’s announcement of a new management system. It’s unique because it’s the only guide dog school in the world run by a company. At the time, the concept of service dogs was unfamiliar in Korea, and some people were skeptical about Samsung’s investment in dogs. However, Lee believed that changing society’s perceptions and customs was essential for true social welfare.
Over the past 30 years, there has been a significant change in attitudes. In 1995, guide dogs and blind people were allowed to board airplanes for the first time in Korea, thanks to the efforts of Samsung employees. In 1996, elementary school textbooks began including information about guide dogs, and in 2000, a law was passed to make it illegal to deny access to guide dogs in public places or on public transportation.
Since 1994, Samsung has trained a total of 280 service dogs, with 12 to 15 guide dogs entering service each year. Currently, there are 76 guide dogs in active service.
SGDS not only trains guide dogs but also works to raise awareness about disabilities and guide dogs by organizing events for the public to experience visual impairment. In recognition of these efforts, Lee received the Distinguished Service Award from the International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF) in 2002.
During the event, IGDF President William Thornton praised Samsung’s 30-year commitment to training guide dogs and called SGDS a world-class organization.
In one of his unpublished essays, Lee outlined three goals for the guide dog program: to improve the welfare of blind individuals who use guide dogs, to create a business model that returns corporate profits to society, and to involve ordinary citizens in fostering service dogs through a program called PuppyWalking, with the aim of promoting a mindset of prioritizing the socially disadvantaged and loving animals.
M. H. Lee (email@example.com)