I don’t often complain about my job* and never after visiting my parents-in-law. They are settled and comfortable as farmers, having farmed all their lives. I help out when I can but I treat my short stints of farm labour in a very different way than they must do. when I arrive on a Saturday morning, I am eager to get to work, get it done and return home, or somewhere, to relax. for them, it is one day of many; possibly fulfilling and interesting, possibly drudgery, I don’t know. I do know they aren’t looking at it as “Get ‘er done and get out of here.” It would take some serious effort for me to become a full-time farmer, even if the idea of having a large and time-consuming vegetable garden does seem more and more interesting and something I want to do.
I do follow one particular habit of farmers and former farmers in Korea (and most families are farm or former farm families). I take my 구충제 (Helminthic, phonetically in Korean: Goo-Choong-Jeh) pill about once a year.
Look how happy that family is for each to be eating for one and not for another family living inside. They are happy to not be suffering various intestinal problems.
The pill is remarkable. Well, I don’t know how effective it is (we’ll get to that in a moment) but you can take it any time of day, under most any conditions. Been drinking? take it. Before a meal? Take it. After a meal? Take it. Side effects? No, take it. Young child? Take it – but don’t chew.
In fact it is so easy to take, I have to wonder at it’s effectiveness. It is typically taken ‘just in case’ and that is how I took mine this morning. The whole family did as we do about once a year, with or without symptoms – and definitely without a prescription. Could it be just a placebo?
Anyway, back to farming. The Korea Times has a poorly edited article about young men turning to the farm. Not returning, not necessarily the children of farmers becoming farmers themselves. No, this is about urban men choosing to go rural.
If you haven’t noticed, here’s the news. An increasing number of young, educated Koreans are quietly submitting their resignation letter to their employers. It’s not because they found a better-paying job at a rival company. They are heading to the countryside.
These individuals are mostly in their 30s, having several years of work experience under their belt. For example, Park Suk-jae, 36, previously worked for a telecom company for eight years before he decided to come to Hamyang county in South Gyeongsang Province a year ago. He now grows persimmon trees, in addition to potatoes and peppers.
Since he’s a “late starter” in agriculture, he had registered himself to a crop-breeding class. “The local government subsidized half of the purchases on agricultural machines I need. I also plan to apply for a 200 million-won loan that the government provides to the start-up farmers,” he told the Maeil Business newspaper.
Lee Sang-hun, 35, who works in the financial sector, plans to go to the countryside soon. “The government support, including subsidy, is a big factor. That means, if you are dedicated and have access to necessary information, you could succeed even with a small fund,” he said.
The government also has a generous policy for these ardent pre-farmers. For example, if one doesn’t have land, the government will loan it for him, and subsidize his purchase of agricultural machinery.
*I might complain about coworkers or missed opportunities to do my job better, but I feel lucky to do have the job I do.