Individual donations to charity have increased steadily over the years, from W850 billion in 1999 to W5.5 trillion in 2008, more than a six-fold growth in a decade (US$1=W1,170).
Until 1999, 70 percent of the charitable donations came from companies, but individual donations now account for 60 percent.
But 80 percent of individual donations go to religious organizations, compared to only 13 percent in the U.K. and 30 percent in the U.S.
"Non-religious civic groups are still weak in their fundraising capacity," said Koo Ji-yoon, a researcher at Yonsei University Graduate School of Social Welfare.
Total donations from individuals in Korea still lag far behind those in advanced countries with just 0.54 percent of GDP according to 2008 figures by the National Tax Service. That is similar to Australia's 0.69 percent and South Africa's 0.65 percent, but just one-third of 1.67 percent in the U.S.
The average Korean donates W199,000 a year, a mere one-seventh of US$1,220 (W1.43 million) in the U.S. and one-third of 372 pounds (W670,000) in Britain. Despite the promising growth of individual donations, they still do not match Korea’s status as the world's 13th biggest economic power.
The 2008 Giving Korea survey released each year by the Beautiful Foundation shows that 40.1 percent of respondents did not give anything to charity because they were not interested. One every seven people said they did not know where to donate, and 16.5 percent had no faith in the management of charities.