By Kang Yoon-seung
SEJONG, Feb. 11 (Yonhap) -- South Korea said Tuesday it plans to raise funds worth 31.5 billion won (US$26.5 million) this year to foster startups in the agriculture and fisheries segment as part of its broader efforts to enhance the vitality of rural areas.
The fund -- which will be raised jointly by the state and the private sector -- will center on supporting people seeking new business opportunities in farms and fishing towns, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
The ministry said 21.5 billion won will be set aside to help existing startups scale up their businesses, while 10 billion won will be disbursed to young farmers, with the amount set to increase to 50 billion won over the next five years.
The move is the latest in a series of efforts by South Korea to revitalize its farming and fishery industries, which have been facing slowed growth due to a rapidly aging population and urbanization across the country.
Many young South Koreans in rural provinces have flocked to Seoul in search of high-paying jobs over previous decades, leading to the hollowing out of rural communities and poor infrastructure in provincial areas.
The number of workers in the agriculture and fisheries segment rose 4.1 percent-on-year to 1.39 million in 2019 as a number of baby boomers moved to rural areas after retirement.
The number of South Koreans aged in their 20s to 40s seeking job opportunities in agriculture and fisheries was up 16,700 in 2019 from two years earlier, while the figure for those in their 50s and 60s increased by 105,700.
South Korea vowed to roll out a set of other measures this year to attract more young farmers to settle on farms.
For example, South Korea plans to allocate 22.4 square kilometers of land -- slightly more than six times the size of Central Park, and 30 percent greater than a year earlier -- for a scheme targeting potential young farmers in 2020.
South Korea is building smart farm valleys and greenhouse zones as well, where young farmers can rent plots of land at reasonable prices.
South Korea will develop online shopping platforms to help farmers reach out to new customers and make efforts to increase exports.
The country earlier said it wants to expand its outbound shipments of agricultural goods by 6.7 percent to $7.5 billion in 2020 by diversifying its product portfolio and penetrating deeper into emerging markets like Southeast Asia.
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