Koreans flee stress and the city for rural idylls

Wed May 9, 2012 7:24am EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Iktae Park

MUNGYEONG, South Korea (Reuters) - A year ago, South Korean executive Chung Man-gyoo spent weekdays driving his Hyundai Grandeur sedan through the jammed streets of Seoul to his suburban office. At weekends he drove it to the golf course.

Now, the 53-year old fills the rear seat of the same black car with tools and fertilizer for his one-acre farm in the rural east of the country. His golf clubs lie unused except when his wife swings them to chase stray cats away from their house.

"I don't miss life in the city at all," said Chung, who used to work for an electronics company that supplied components to Samsung Electronics Co Ltd.

One of the growing number of South Koreans moving back to the countryside, Chung lives in Mungyeong, a small farming town in the eastern hills, where it takes an hour by car to get to the nearest train station.

"My wife misses the pizza delivery sometimes," joked Chung, as he sat on his porch in a short-sleeved shirt, sipping juice made from the berry bushes he now tends.

"I now wake up in the morning with pleasure. I also have more time to be with my wife and talk with her. Our relationship has never been closer."

The Asian Development Bank estimates the urban population across Asia will rise by 1.1 billion people by 2030 to account for 55 percent of the region's total population, up from 40 percent in 2005. South Korea is a notable exception.

Large numbers of people migrated to Korean cities in the 1970s and 1980s as the country industrialized and job opportunities grew quickly. Their children got access to education, and then stayed on in the cities.   Continued...

Suh Jeong-deok, a former head researcher for Hanwha Chemical Corp, works at his cucumber farm in Sangju, about 270 km (168 miles) southeast of Seoul, April 4, 2012. A growing number of South Koreans are moving back to the countryside. According to government statistics, 10,503 families left Korean cities in 2011 to take up farming, more than double the number in 2010. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji