To many, Taiwan's 'King Midas' more than just a business tycoon

Wang Yong-ching, founder of Formosa Plastics, passed away in New York on October 15 (local time) at the age of 92.

Wang Yong-ching, founder of Formosa Plastics, passed away in New York on October 15 (local time) at the age of 92.

The captains of local industry all lined up to pay their respects to late Formosa Plastics Group founder Wang Yung-ching last week as the country mourned the passing Oct. 15 of its second wealthiest citizen and leading industrialist.
Hon Hai Group Chairman Terry Gou, Evergreen Group Chairman Chang Yung-fa, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Chairman Morris Chang and others paid tribute to Wang for his pioneering role in Taiwan's industrial development.
But to many other faceless individuals who lined up to bid farewell to Wang, including an Indigenous nurse, students and teachers from a Yunlin County school and a hearing-impaired girl, the Formosa Plastics tycoon was remembered much more for his philanthropic activities than his business exploits.
In fact, while they were not widely reported, Wang's charitable enterprises had a considerable impact on Taiwan, especially among generally less wealthy Indigenous groups, who called Wang their "vuvu," meaning "grandpa."

Former Chang Gung University President Chang Chao-hsiung recalled that Wang once summoned him to his office in the early 1990s to tell him that the government's social welfare campaigns to heighten awareness against teenage prostitution were "useless" in addressing the problem that was plaguing Taiwan's Aboriginal communities.
"We should give the Indigenous People fishing poles, " Wang suggested, leading to the birth of the "fishing pole project," one of the tycoon's lasting achievements.
The project was aimed at helping Aboriginal youths gain vocational skills to be able to pull their own weight after reaching adulthood.
Wang first instructed Chang to allow indigenous girls -- many of whom had fallen into socially disreputable professions because of poverty -- to be admitted into Wang's Chang Gung Nursing School free of charge.
The nursing school, established by Wang in 1988 in Taoyuan County, is now known as Chang Gung University.
After operating the "fishing pole project" for several years, Wang paid a visit to the nursing school, where he saw many female Indigenous students not only showing confidence and self-esteem, but also natural beauty.
A concerned Wang summoned Chang again, saying, "I am worried that young Indigenous men will end up wifeless with the Indigenous young women receiving good educations and growing more beautiful. We have to do something for the boys."
And with that, Ming Chi College of Technology, now a university, began to accept aboriginal young men and provide them with free vocational education.
Ming Chi, established in 1963 and the first educational institution founded by Wang, aimed at nurturing technicians for his plastics and petrochemical empire.
Today, nearly 5,000 Indigenous young men and women have graduated from Chang Gung Nursing School or Chang Gung University's Nursing Department and Ming Chi College or University.
Some of the women have become head nurses at one of the many branches of Chang Gung Memorial Hospital -- the largest hospital chain in Taiwan, which treats an average of 30,000 people a day.
Most of the men became engineers working in the Formosa Plastics Group, which Wang started in 1954 and which now has interests ranging from plastics and petrochemicals to electronics, thermal power stations, and biotechnology.
After the 91-year-old Wang died in his sleep Oct. 15 in New Jersey during a business trip, many of those who benefited from the program appeared at a mourning hall set up for the tycoon at Chang Gung University in Taoyuan County's Gueishan township to offer a word of thanks.
One of them, Liu Yi-ching, an orthopedic surgery nurse at Chang Gung Memorial Hospital's Linkou branch, said the tiring and stressful nature of her job had not prevented her from working at the hospital, "because I wanted to return the benevolence of founder Wang, who changed my life and the welfare of my maternal family."
Perhaps Wang's empathy for society's underdogs grew from his own rags-to-riches story, that saw him parlay an NT$200 loan to an estimated net worth of US$5.5 billion, according to a 2008 Forbes survey that ranked him as the 178th richest person in the world.
Wang came to represent core Taiwanese values as someone who was hardworking, persevering, flexible, skilled at negotiating, and willing to take risks.
Born as the oldest boy to a poor family when Taiwan was under Japanese rule, Wang began to work at the age of 5, picking bits of coal and tea leaves in the hilly areas of his hometown, Sindian, in Taipei County.
Never receiving any formal schooling beyond elementary school, he began apprenticing in a rice shop at 12, where he learned his trade. At 16, Wang opened his own rice shop in Chiayi City, southern Taiwan, with NT$200 his father had managed to borrow from several friends.
His father's death when he was a teenager planted the seed that compelled Wang to build hospitals, particularly hospitals for the middle class and underprivileged who did not have access to good, affordable medical attention in Taiwan prior to the 1970s.
The Chang Gung hospital franchise, now has seven branches around Taiwan and one in China's Xiamen, have continued to provide free diagnoses and treatment for patients from low-income families.
Firmly believing in the Chinese proverb that says, "It takes 10 years to grow trees, but a hundred to rear and educate people," Wang also began to establish schools 45 years ago -- a practice that would continue over four decades.
Wang's concern for education was especially apparent after a deadly earthquake struck central Taiwan on Sept. 21, 1999, a natural disaster that flattened many elementary schools in the stricken area.
One of the schools he helped was Chiu Chiung Elementary School in the south-central county of Yunlin, which received NT$38 million from Wang to rebuild its campus, and school principal Cheng Mei-nu led 50 teachers and students to Taoyuan to pay their last respects to the man who gave their school new life.
Cheng also brought with her hundreds of cards drawn and written by students, wishing "Grandpa Wang" a happy landing in his next world.
Hsing Hua Elementary School in Mailiao, Yunlin, another school that was rebuilt with Wang's donations, observed a one-minute moment of silence Oct. 26 to commemorate the man who was a household name in the country and who personified its economic development history.
The mother of a child who was hearing-impaired from birth, also brought her daughter, Huang Chia-yu, to pay tribute to Wang at the mourning hall.
"Grandpa Wang was a living Buddha for us, " the mother said. "We could not afford the cost of implanting electronic ears for Chia-yu as our family was never economically prepared," Huang's mother said.
"Because of Wang's philanthrophy, Chia-yu has been able to attend school as a normal child since the age of 6, " the grateful parent said.
Acting at Wang's will, Formosa Plastics' management will donate all the assets held under his name, estimated to be worth roughly NT$46 billion, to the Wang Chang-gung Foundation, a charity foundation named after his father dedicated to medical care and education.
While many of Taiwan's underprivileged paid emotional farewells to their benefactor, even the rich and powerful were moved by the tycoon's passing.
Hon Hai's Gou was on his hands and knees to pay tribute to Wang.
"I respect him as my own father and Taiwan's father of industrial development as well," a teary Gou said.

Updated : 2021-04-16 00:34 GMT+08:00