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(LEAD) 'Y-Farm Expo 2016' opens to spearhead retire-to-farm movement

All News 13:53 April 29, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS details in para 4-7, CHANGES photos)
By Kang Yoon-seung

SEOUL, April 29 (Yonhap) -- Yonhap News Agency, South Korea's key news service, on Friday kicked off an exposition designed to help urban dwellers retire to farms, providing visitors with various information on starting a new environment-friendly life.

The event, titled "Y-Farm Expo 2016," will continue through Sunday at the aT Center in Yangjae-dong, southern Seoul. Seventy-five provincial and local governments are participating in the admission-free exposition, which is running under the theme of "Return to farms for the future, Return to the countryside for happiness."

Yonhap News Agency President and CEO Park No-hwang, Agricultural Minister Lee Dong-phil and other dignitaries attended the opening ceremony.

"A farm is a place where humans share their lives with nature," Park said during his opening speech. "Although we live in a high-tech era with smartphones, many people are also moving to rural regions, dreaming of starting a new life.

"The perception on returning to farms has also changed. While people previously migrated outside cities after facing financial issues, now more South Koreans are making the decision in the hopes of finding an environment-friendly life," Park added.

Park said the development of technology also has lowered barriers in the agricultural industry, inviting more people to start new careers.

The retire-to-farm movement can also be helpful in solving the chronic problems of South Korean farms, including the aging population, he added.

Co-hosted by Yonhap News Agency and the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, the event will offer the latest updates related to the government's policy on supporting urban dwellers' return to farms, as well as details on farming and distribution know-how and successful cases of urban-to-rural resettlements.

An increasing number of South Koreans have been moving to farms. According to the data compiled by Statistics Korea, the number of households heading from cities to rural areas came to 44,586 units in 2014, up 37.5 percent from a year earlier.

Industry watchers said last year's figure is estimated at 50,000 units, although no detailed figures have been compiled so far. It marks a sharp rise from 4,067 units posted in 2010.

South Korean retailers, including E-Mart and Lotte Mart, as well as tech IT firms, including LG Mtron Ltd., will also feature "smart farm" solutions, which aim to apply information and communications technology to the agricultural sector to beef up efficiency and productivity.

Organizers said it has also prepared a special booth targeting those in their 30s and 40s, as people seeking to start new careers at farms are becoming younger over the recent years.

Successful farmers who used to be urban dwellers will also share their experiences at the venue, the organizers said.

Provincial governments in South Korea have been rolling out different incentives to host more retirees from cities.

Gangwon Province, for example, plans to allocate 97 billion won (US$84.4 million) to help 500 newcomers start new agricultural businesses over the next five years. Another 3.9 billion won will also be handed out to help them settle down, the regional government said.

Boeun, a town located in North Chungcheong Province, also provides up to 5 million won each to help new households purchase farming equipment.

Provincial governments will operate booths to provide face-to-face consulting services to the visitors at the venue.

colin@yna.co.kr
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