By Beatrice Loh
The booming entertainment industry in Asia has churned out many talented stars that have gone on to achieve global fame. From actors like Jackie Chan and Amitabh Bachchan to pop stars like G-Dragon and film directors like Lee Ang, Asian celebrities are rising to prominence all over the world. The growing popularity of this crop of Asian stars has led some of the more socially conscious of them to use their wealth and influence for more altruistic purposes.
Here is a list of 10 Asian celebrities who use their influence for good:
- Jackie Chan, Hong Kong
Jackie Chan is a household name across Asia. Mention Jackie Chan and people will tell you about his hilarious antics and incredible fighting skills displayed across a plethora of movies – the man has appeared in over 150 films! Chan is also an enthusiastic philanthropist, supporting hundreds of charitable causes and even setting up several foundations of his own. His impact is amplified because he lends his name and puts his boundless energy behind a cause.
Regretting his lack of a formal education, the grade school dropout launched the Jackie Chan Charitable Foundation in 1988, offering scholarships and other help to young people. Over the years, the scope has broadened to include medical services, help for the poor and quick responses to natural disasters. He donated more than $1.3 million to relief efforts after China’s Sichuan earthquake. He also started the Dragon’s Heart Foundation in 2004 to fulfil the needs of children and the elderly in remote areas of China.
“Before, I didn’t like charity. I just wanted to be famous and to earn more money,” said Chan, who is currently also a UNICEF and UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador, in a report by Look to the Stars. “My friends taught me and now I like to do charity. Even when I am sleeping, I think how I can help other people. Every human being has to learn how to do charity.”
- Jang Dong Gun, South Korea
Jang Dong Gun is most well known for his acting, with roles in the popular 2012 South Korean drama Gentleman’s Dignity, 2001 film Friend and 2004 film Taegukgi: The Brotherhood of War. Jang is one of the highest paid actors and celebrity endorsers in South Korea and is a beloved star thanks to his gentle and kind image.
Lesser known is the fact that the World Food Programme appointed the talented actor and singer Ambassador Against Hunger for Korea in 2008. Since then, Jang has donated both money and time to fight world hunger, even heading to typhoon-stricken areas of Laos in 2010. One of the villages he visited, Ban Houayhoy, had lost much of its rice crop due to Typhoon Ketsana and was relying on the World Food Programme for enough to eat until their next harvest.
Jang also donates huge sums of money to various charitable causes. In 2011, he donated US$200,000 to Japan to aid relief efforts after the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. Together with his wife, actress Go So Young, they donated US$100,000 on their son’s first birthday to the Social Welfare Society, which had plans to use the money for the treatment of children and the support of single mothers.
- Salman Khan, India
Salman Khan made the headlines recently, and not for a good cause. He was sentenced to five years imprisonment for a hit-and-run case in 2002 he was involved in but later released on bail. His situation sparked off controversy over preferential treatment of stars in India, with Khan’s supporters listing the actor’s good deeds in the past 12 years to atone for his past sins. And boy, that list is long!
Khan started Being Human, a non-governmental organization working in the areas of education and healthcare for the underprivileged in 2007. He has worked extensively with cancer and AIDS patients. His big dream is to open hospitals, pharmacy companies and health care units. The actor has reportedly spent Rs 47 crore (US$7.38 million) on charitable causes.
“I’ll do films idhar udhar but charity will be my priority. I’ve got so much and I want to give back something,” the actor said in an interview with Bollywood.com.
Whether or not Khan should be charged in his hit-and-run case, it is undeniable that the man is a philanthropist who has used his wealth and influence for good.
- Liv Lo, Singapore
Taiwanese-Italian model, actress and yogi Liv Lo is based in Singapore. The actress in a local television serial Point of Entry has been very outspoken about animal testing in the cosmetics industry, backing Humane Society International’s Be Cruelty-Free ASIA campaign.
“I’m very proud to support the great work by Humane Society International’s Be Cruelty-Free ASIAcampaign to end unethical and unnecessary animal testing for cosmetics. It breaks my heart to know that in laboratories across Asia, gentle rabbits and other animals are having cosmetic chemicals dripped in their eyes or forced down their throat. It’s simply unacceptable and it must stop. There is no beauty in cosmetics cruelty,” the up-and-coming star said at the campaign’s press conference in Singapore.
- Kim Yuna, South Korea
Despite her good looks, Kim Yuna isn’t an actress, model or singer – her claim to fame is as an Olympic gold medallist figure skater. She has broken the world record under the ISU Judging System 11 times since 2007 and has never finished a competition off the podium throughout her entire career.
Much like many of her medals, Kim, a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, also has a heart of gold. In 2011, after winning the silver medal at the World Figure Skating Championships, she announced that she would be donating her prize money of $27,000. She also donated $83,000 to Haiti earthquake victims through UNICEF.
As a Goodwill Ambassador, she has made additional donations to the work of UNICEF and will be lending her face to a special video marking the six-month anniversary of the earthquake to thank donors and continued support for the children in Haiti.
- Nightmare, Japan
Nightmare is a Japanese rock band from Sendai that has enjoyed mainstream success after their songs “The World” and “Alumina” were included in the popular Death Note animated series.
After the Iwate-Miyagi Nairiku earthquake hit Nightmare’s hometown of Sendai in 2008, the band held a charity concert there with all proceeds donated to the victims. Their charity efforts for victims of the earthquake did not stop there – a donation box was set up during every stop on their tours that year, raising a total of 304,048 yen (US$2,894). In the light of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, Nightmare held a fund-raising event for the victims.
- Liu Ye, China
Liu Ye isn’t just using his acting chops for films on the big screen. The actor, who has been openly praised by famous directors such as Stanley Kwan, John Woo and Zhang Yimou, filmed a video for World Earth Day to raise awareness of ocean protection.
In his role as Earth Day Ambassador in a dialogue with Dr. Sylvia Earle in Tsinghua University, Liu appealed to the audience to protect the oceans. Admitting that he used to enjoy shark’s fin soup, a Chinese delicacy, he explained that meeting his eco-conscious wife changed him. Approximately 100 million sharks are extracted from the sea each year, and China is the biggest consumer. The demand for shark fin is driving nearly a third of all the world’s shark species to the brink of extinction. To show their support, Liu’s wife and children were also at the event.
- Pakorn Chatborirak, Thailand
Thai actor and model Pakorn Charborirak is famous for his good looks and acting skills. His face is plastered across the country, on magazines, in movies, commercials, music videos and on stage. Even his voice is sought-after – he voices an animated cartoon and was part of a boy band called 4+1 Channel 3 Superstar.
Chatborirak lends his face to various corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects by large corporations to raise awareness for the causes they champion. In 2011, he was the artiste ambassador for GlaxoSmithKline’s CSR project to increase access to medicine. He was the face of Cigna Insurance’s CSR project in 2012, designing and selling T-shirts for the company to raise funds, as well as volunteering his time to build houses for the poor. He is also a nature lover, visiting elephants at the Kui Buri National Park with Sudsapda magazine and fronting a campaign by the Tourism Authority of Thailand to promote nature around the Hua-Hin beach area.
- Cinta Laura Kiehl, Indonesia
Cinta Laura Kiehl launched her career in the entertainment industry in Indonesia in 2007, starring in several successful television series and movies that have propelled her to stardom. The actress, singer and model of mixed German-Indonesian heritage has won many entertainment awards including Best Actress from Nickelodoen Kid’s Choice Awards, Best Dance/Electronica Music Performance from Anugerah Musik Awards and Best Actress from SCTV, an Indonesian television station.
Apart from her career in entertainment, Kiehl manages a charitable foundation called Soekarseno Peduli, aimed at rebuilding dilapidated schools in West Java, Indonesia. The foundation has cooperated with several multinational companies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to enrich the lives of more than 4,000 children since 2003.
- Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, India
The winner of the Miss World beauty pageant in 1994, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is a successful Bollywood actress who has often been dubbed the “most beautiful woman in the world”.
Rai is also well known for her charitable work. Her off-screen roles include duties as a brand ambassador for several charity organizations and campaigns, including being a Goodwill Ambassador for UNAIDS. As the brand ambassador for The Eye Bank Association in India tasked with promoting eye donation, she publicly pledged to donate her eyes. She is also a United Nations Microcredit Spokesperson and an ardent supporter of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India. Rai also started the Aishwarya Rai Foundation to help the needy. In 2009, she became the first Goodwill Ambassador of Smile Train, an international organization that provides free cleft lip and palate surgery to children in need.
The celebrities on this list have shown their worth to be more than just their good looks or myriad talents – their generosity and heart for the less privileged are inspiring. With their wealth and influence, they are making a significant impact on the less fortunate all over Asia.