Last night, I was watching The Human Condition (인간의 조건) a South Korean variety show where the cast members are given a mission regarding life such as living without something or eating healthier. The episode I watched was the summer special which featured both the male and female casts. On this particular episode, they visited a farming village. (Watch Volunteer Farm Work: Part 1 and Part 2)
If you’ve watched Korean variety shows, you’ll know that visiting the farming village is fairly common among them. The first show to introduce me to Korean farming life was Family Outing. On that show, the cast members spent 2 days at a residence in a farming village. They played games to determine what farming chore would go to which team/member.
The first thing you notice in the farming missions is that the villagers are quite old. Most are over 70 and still tending farms. If they have children, they’ve already fled to cities at the first opportunity. That means there are rarely any young, able-bodied Koreans around to help with the farming. In the Youngjeong Village, one resident said that those in their 60s were considered young. They often have to rely on immigrants to do all the farm work. Despite offering high wages, they still lack hands.
From what I’ve seen of farming villages in Korea, I really like the communal aspect. In these shows, you can definitely see the strong Confucian culture show through. The village head suggests to landowners what to grow. There are warehouses to store the food for the entire village. And most importantly, everyone helps one another.
The first day the cast of Human Condition visited Youngjeong Village they split into teams to do 3 chores: weeding rice, tying up peppers and cleaning cow dung. No matter how many times I see it, weeding rice seems to be the most stressful. Machines will damage the crops so it all has to be done by hand while stooped over. My back aches in sympathy. To make it worse, the weeds look just like rice, so you have incidents like on Infinity Challenge when Gil accidentally pulled all the rice plants in what looked like a 12′ x 12′ area.
It’s hard to focus on the subtitles on farming episodes because the growing techniques are so fascinating. I’m not sure if the people are short or the plants are humongous, but it’s impressive to see vine plants like tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers towering over people. My own plants rarely get to 3′ tall. I’m convinced it’s how are trained. The produce is pretty big, too. I keep telling myself that’s just because of growing zones. It’s simply too hot in LA to get giant cucumbers…right?
Very few things I see on Korean TV looks that different from what I see in Los Angeles, so I rarely have a desire to go. When I see all the natural areas and farming villages, I instantly start thinking about renewing my passport. I realized last night, that I would really appreciate the opportunity to travel around South Korea to write on their farming practices in these villages. It’s so wildly different from what I’ve seen of growers here in Southern California. I think I can learn a lot.