by. Bong Eunseo
All family members gathered to celebrate annual holiday, Chuseok, together. Farming as a trend has been existing for quite a long time. My grandparents also decided to be a part of it, since they bought a small house at a small rural time in Gangwon-do last year. Although they aren’t perfectly living there, for they still have their original house at Seoul and move here from there, their life has changed a lot. To understand how is farming like and the compare and contrast living in the urban and rural area, I had an interview with my oldest family members, my grandparents.
Me: Good morning. This is the second morning of Chuseok holidays, and I am here with my grandparents to talk about their rural life. Would you introduce yourselves please?
Grandmother: Hello. I’m Hong Sunhwa, Eunseo’s grandmother, living in both Seoul and Gangwon-do.
Grandfather: I’m Bong Ujong, her grandfather.
Me: Thank you for attending this interview. Let’s start with the first question. Where exactly do you live?
Grandmother: Jeongseon, Gangwon-do.
Me: Would you introduce a little about the town you live?
Grandmother: It’s a very small town, known for famous Korean actors (Song Hyegyo) got married, and also as the shooting site of the well-known TV show ‘Samsisekki.’ There is a small (읍내) area, and we live in the upper side of the hill, quite deep inside, where there is only one off-road way for a car to climb.
Me: Okay, then when did you decide to live there? I’m sure you have a wonderful house here at Seoul, too.
Grandfather: Yes we do. I was the one who first came up with this idea. Since I was young, I’ve seen how a small family farm goes around, and so did my wife. Several years ago, I was involved in a kind of farming work, too. I’ve always wanted to have a house in the rural area and have a quiet, self-sufficient daily life after retiring from work. Then one of my acquaintance offered to find a good house for us. It was a good chance, and I suggested to go.
Me: I see. Did she like the idea, too?
Grandfather: She seemed like she didn’t like the idea in the first place, but I guess she thought it over and kind of changed her mind.
Grandmother: At first, I thought it would be hard work, dealing with the farm on our own. But anyway I was interested in living in rural area, too. Besides, the house was in a really great spot, and also the conditions were good.
Me: So you decided to buy a house there. But you still do have a house at Seoul, is it right?
Grandmother: Yes. As you know, moving to Jeongseon wasn’t a small change. Its very far from where my children live, and adjusting to the life without any amenities that we are already used to seemed too hard. Especially going to hospital or local administrative institute is very hard there, and we thought it would be uncomfortable. Besides, we like our own house at Seoul. That’s why we didn’t perfectly move.
Grandfather: About half a month we stay there, and we come back to Seoul for another half. Since there is no air conditioner and proper heating system, we choose to stay at Seoul for some months in summer and winter. Winter, in particular, is quite a big problem. We prepare the house in Jeongseon for the severe winter, and stay at Seoul for few months.
Me: Then what do you do when you are at Jeongseon?
Grandmother: We grow different plants, vegetables and fruits, but not for living. We just do it for us, that we can produce what we will going to eat, and share some with neighbors. We grow lettuce, carrot, tomato, cucumber, potato, and so on. In summer there are more fruits, such as watermelon and oriental melon. All of these are grown with the least amount of pesticides and fertilizers, so they are very fresh and in good quality. We eat some of them, and then share with family members, friends, and neighbors. Sometimes when we have a surplus of them, we sell them to acquaintances.
Grandfather: We also do a lot of fishing, mostly in the nearby lake. When we have visitors in our house, fish dish is a good choice for everybody. Sometimes I follow one of my Simmani friends to the mountain, help their work and receive some of the plant roots as a reward. We usually make alcoholic drinks with these roots, and keep them for few years.
Me: Basically, you produce or get food that you need on your own? Isn’t it hard?
Grandmother: I have to say it is not that easy. Its actually quite a lot of work, maintaining the house and looking after plants. We have to take care of the house and deal with problems on our own. My husband was stung by bees when he was trying to clean up a bee hive under our roof, and he had to go to local hospital. Many people did help us when we first got their, but anyway all the works were our duty. Life there was not as quite and peaceful as we thought. First few months were very busy, and we are still busy everyday. However, we are used to the busy life and we are quite enjoying it. Every harvest makes us happy, and the hard work is certainly rewarding.
Me: Would you tell us a bit more about the good sides of living at Jeongseon?
Grandfather: Well, the environment is great there. I had a chronic drying-eye problem, and my wife had rhinitis. Our symptoms got remarkably better when we started to stay at Jeongseon. Also, the nature itself is really good to live close to. Fresh air and clear sky make us feel better everyday. Also, growing our own plants and going fishing or climbing mountain together is very fun. Living at Jeongseon gives us a lot of joy that we can never find in the city.
Me: Right. I think we see the advantages and disadvantages of living in rural area now. This is the final question. Do you have any advice for those who are planning to move to rural area?
Grandmother: Well, first of all I’d like to say its a very good decision. It might be a bit crazy decision, you’ll see why, but still a very good plan. It might be somehow tough when you start living far away from city, and everything may feel new to you, but you’ll get used to it. Find someone who is an expert who can help you with things, and don’t hesitate to share what you’ve got with other people. I think that’s all I want to tell.
Me: What a nice advice! Alright, I think we will stop here. Thank you so much for your participation.
I didn’t know everything about my grandparents’ house in Jeongseon since I’ve been to there only twice. It was a good opportunity for me to learn about their life there. Also, I liked spending time with my grandparents. Talking in formal tone with my own grandparents was fairly awkward, but it was fun. This interview was a good opportunity, not only for me though. Since returning to farming has been a trend for some years now, I thought there will be people who are hesitating over moving or not. I hope this interview will help those people decide whether to move to rural area and start their own faring life.
(Photo Credit : http://www.gbmg.go.kr/open.content/ko/economy/return.farm/)