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Weekend Farmers

Posted October. 22, 2005 10:29,   


After two politicians’ ownership of farmlands, including Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan’s weekend farm in Daebudo, Ansan, Gyeonggi Province and the farm of Jeong Mun-soo, economic advisor to the president, in Cheolwon, Gangwon Province, stirred controversy last month, it is no longer a rare scene to see some residents of apartment complexes in Gangnam and other affluent neighborhoods turning into farmers during the weekends.

The prime minister has reportedly never visited his farm, even after his farm became a source of debate.

The weekend farmers pack wide-brimmed hats and work clothes instead of golf clubs and take off to their farmlands with their families. In some cases, a group of three to four housewives visit the farmland they bought together.

Jeong (65), who purchased 3,000-pyeong of land in Hongcheon, Gangwon Province 10 years ago, visits his farm every Friday with his family to weed the land. He said, “I paid 25,000 won per pyeong when I bought the land. Now, it is worth more than 100,000 won.” His family works together and has a great time at a spa in a recreational complex nearby.

Many farm owners who live in Seoul violated the law when they purchased the land. Furthermore, they don’t cultivate the land in line with their agriculture plans which they submitted at the time of purchase. And in many cases, they pay others to farm the land for them. Under the current law, they are required either to sell the land or pay the fines. Therefore, some owners decide to become farmers on the weekends to avoid the penalties.

Others Attempt to Get Around the Law to Maintain Ownership of the Land-

Lee (42), the owner of 600-pyeong lot of land in Gimpo, Gyeonggi Province, said, “In my case, the former owner, who is a farmer, still remains the owner of my land on paper, and he continues to farm the land.”

Kim (28), the owner of land and a large hothouse in Namyangju, Gyeonggi Province, said, “It is illegal for a non-farmer to own land for the purpose of speculation. But a non-farmer can maintain the ownership of the land legally, by building a hothouse on the land and renting it.”

One realtor specializing in weekend farmlands said, “80 percent of the developable land in some of the Gyeonggi area is owned by Gangnam residents, 10 percent is possessed by residents of Gangbuk or Dongseo-gu, Ilsan, Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, and the rest is owned by local residents.”

One official from Wonju city in Gangwon Province said, “The law stipulates that a farmland owner is subject to fines up to 20 percent of the official land price for not using the land for the purpose of agriculture. But we can’t detect all violators of the law during inspections that takes place only once or twice a year. Also, it is not that simple to label owners, who bought the land to live there after retirement, as speculators.”

Jae-Young Kim Se-Jin Jung jaykim@donga.com mint4a@donga.com