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(Yonhap Interview) Accurate information vital for successful rural resettlement: minister

All News 14:20 April 29, 2016

By Kang Yoon-seung

SEOUL, April 29 (Yonhap) -- Amid the rising number of urban South Koreans dreaming of a new life in the countryside, South Korea's agricultural minister said Friday potential farmers must be given accurate information before deciding to relocate to rural farm areas.

"Successful resettlements at farms depend on having accurate information," Agriculture Minister Lee Dong-phil told Yonhap News Agency. "In many cases, people eventually opt to return to cities after suffering failures due to the lack of vital information."

Accordingly, Lee said, events like the "Y-Farm Expo 2016" are important as they pave the way for city dwellers to acquire various tips and information.

"Y-Farm Expo 2016," co-hosted by Lee's ministry and Yonhap News Agency, South Korea's key news service, runs 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."

"The return-to-farm movement has emerged as a new trend for our society," Lee said. "Following the retirement of baby boomers, South Korea has renewed its perception of the value of agriculture and farms."

As more South Koreans have knocked on the doors of provinces over the past few years, the government has vowed to utilize the trend to add more vitality to local farms, which have been suffering from the aging population.

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.

"Previously, policies on promoting the return-to-farm movement were aimed at providing information and individual-level education," Lee said. "But now, we plan to add vitality to the national and regional economy on the back of the latest trend."

The ministry added it will provide customized support to South Koreans dreaming of starting a new life on farms.

"South Korea is facing challenges in economic development due to the sluggish growth and consumption, coupled with high unemployment," Lee said, adding that revitalizing the rural economies is a solution to the prolonged economic slump.

"The South Korean government plans to establish a system in which people can get access to various information and subsidies that can help them better settle on farms."

colin@yna.co.kr
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