Country Living Magazine: A New Trend in Korea

The magazine “Country Living” (정원생활) has taken on a new level of sophistication in its design and its content. In a word, “Country Living” presents an appealing image of rural life that is tempting to Koreans in their 30s and 40s. It is hard to imagine such an image of rural Korea previously, a place most Koreans wished to escape for the modernity of the big city (usually Seoul) but things are changing rapidly in Korea these days. Most magazines about country life tended to be rather drab descriptions of agricultural activities with older women in bright colored outfits.

“Country Living” is presenting rural Korea these days as if it were Tuscany or Provence. I personally have thought that much of rural Korea is stunningly beautiful and full of very attractive villages. The biggest problem is simply that Koreans do not see how beautiful their countryside is. Beautiful homes are covered by ugly “modern” facades. Elegant streets are defaced with attention-grabbing neon signs. But there are signs of change.

Already we see traces of reverse migration. Young people who leave the crowded and crazy city to set up their own small organic farm in the countryside. Although the trend is statistically not significant, the rate of increase is quite impressive.

The director of the Alliance Francaise of Daejeon, Monsieur Jeon Changgon (전창곤), has a delightful small house in a small village up in the hills near Gumsan. The village is inhabited almost exclusively by farmers in their seventy and eighties, but as houses are opening up, cultured figures like M. Jeon are buying up the homes and fixing them. M. Jeon did a remarkable job, retaining the original spirit of the home, and bringing in antiques, but cleaning it up and modernizing it in a few essential aspects. I have met a few other Koreans similarly engaged in moving back, or buying country houses. I think the trend is growing.

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