A Taiwanese couple that used a generous donation from a South Korean actress to get their prematurely born infant out of a South Korean hospital on Friday dismissed a post on Professional Technology Temple (PTT) — the nation’s largest academic online bulletin board — claiming that the family is wealthy and could have afforded to pay the child’s medical bills.
Meng Ping-shen (孟秉燊) and his wife were traveling in South Korea in February when the wife gave birth to a baby prematurely.
The child’s medical bills had risen to US$133,000 by late last month — a sum the couple said they could not pay, but South Korean actress Lee Young-ae donated about US$100,000 to help make the payment and get the child back to Taiwan.
An unnamed netizen, identified only as “aq981334,” on Thursday accused the couple of a lavish lifestyle, with the means to foot the bill. The netizen claimed that the husband is an executive at a private company and that his wife runs a store that sells clothes made in South Korea.
The netizen also said the Mengs used expensive mobile devices and bought tickets for a Lady Gaga concert that cost more than NT10,000 each.
“They traveled abroad frequently. Even the drinks they bought were mostly from Starbucks,” the netizen said, adding it was “extremely irresponsible” for a couple with such a “lavish” lifestyle to not pay any of their second child’s NT$4 million in medical bills.
The post drew many comments denouncing the couple.
When contacted on Friday, Meng said: “All the money I borrowed will be given back.”
He admitted that he and his wife use Apple devices and spent NT$26,000 on tickets for the Lady Gaga concert, but he said they do not go to Starbucks every day or drive a BMW, as has been reported.
Meng said he and his wife earn a combined NT$50,000 a month and drive a Ford Fiesta 1.6 worth only a little more than NT$700,000.
He said he had spent extravagantly when he was young, which was why the couple has had trouble saving money and now live in an apartment they rent for NT$10,000 a month.
The support received after the premature birth of his child has left him very grateful and changed his attitude toward life, Meng said.
“Now I cherish every bit of good fortune I have and will not engage in pointless, extravagant waste,” he said.
Although the medical bills were covered by donations and no one would ask for their donations to be paid back, Meng said, he and his wife have begun to save money every month and intend to give the full amount back to South Korea or the organization that helped them.
The Tzu Chi Foundation, a Taiwanese charitable foundation, answered the parents’ call for financial help earlier this year.
Through Tzu Chi volunteers, the popular South Korean actress, who is widely known in Taiwan, learned of the family’s ordeal and took the initiative to cover most of the bills.