Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Plight of Young Korean Farmers

A farmer-poet, in his column in the Catholic Times, was invited to give a talk to a group of women involved in social work. He started by asking them a number of questions: Are your parents important to you or their property? Is your husband important to you or his job? He asked them to put their hands on their hearts, and after serious thought give honest answers to themselves.

He looked at their faces intently and thought they were having a hard time deciding. He then asked another series of questions. Would they exchange their children for all the money  in the banks of the country? No matter how lacking in talent or the trouble their children caused, they said they would not exchange them for money. However, when he asked if they would exchange their husbands for money, it was then that a smile came to the faces of the women. One women said that she would have difficulty giving up her child but the husband would not be so difficult. With that answer everybody broke out in laughter. The poet said that he did not find it a laughing matter. To him it seems that we are willing to exchange anything and everything for money.

He then asked another question. Let us suppose, he said, that you  were again a young women and ready to marry, would you be willing to go to the country and marry a poor farmer?  Would you be willing to marry a young, single farmer who was kind, honest and devoted? He asked those who would be willing to raise their  hands.  Of the 100 or so women present no one raised their hands.

The  farmer was not able to laugh. If there had been one person willing to marry that farmer, he said he probably would have managed to laugh. On his way home that evening he reflected on whether our journey was for life or for death. Isn't the journey in life, for most of us, a journey in search of money and comfort? he asked himself.

The fact is that the young men on the farms are not finding it  easy to find Korean  girls who are willing to spend their lives on the farms. Women are well educated and are able to find lucrative jobs in the city. Spending their lives on the farms is not an attractive option for many of the young women of today.

New rules require that foreign brides have to have basic Korean language skills to obtain a resident visa. This will make the  possibility of finding foreign brides for farmers much harder. In 2012, 20,637 of Korean men married to foreign women 6,586 were Vietnamese; the second most popular brides, after the Chinese. It is well-known that the inability to communicate was the primary reason for the divorces and violence in the home. Recent attempts to remedy the situation will no doubt help, but without helping  very much the many farmers of today who are looking for brides to live the difficult country life.

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