Our agricultural villages are still impoverished, and poverty and famine are chronic problems that strike every year in Korean farming villages. The magnitude of this problem becomes clear when we look at the difference between the income of urban workers and the income of rural laborers. In 1963, urban household expenses were KRW 128,160 while rural household expenses amounted to KRW 77,464; per capita disposable income for urban workers was KRW 18,826, while that of rural farmers was KRW 14,257. This economic imbalance is not simply the fate of farmers; it is attributable to specific causes. First, there is not enough land to support the size of the rural population. There are 2.41 million rural households and about 2.09 million jeongbo (20,727 square kilometer) of land. This averages out to 8.68 banbo (8,608 square meters) for every four households. Furthermore, farms are poor because land utilization rates and productivity are both very low. The second problem is related to the nature of rice and barley cultivation. In Korea, which has fewer working days than Denmark, labor demand is concentrated in June and in July, when barley is harvested and rice is planted, and in October, when rice is harvested and barley is planted. As a result, there is a peak agricultural busy period and an agricultural off-season. In the busy period, both large and small farms have to hire additional laborers while family labor potential is not fully utilized in the off-season. Third, Korean agriculture requires large amounts of artificial fertilizer which reduces the quality of the soil and hinders the growth of crops. Due to these circumstances, fertilizer and labor make up more than half of all agricultural costs. Agricultural improvement in Korea aims to address these issues and increase incomes. Before talking about agricultural improvement methods, I will briefly tell you about management diagnosis. This is a diagram based on the results of an evaluation of agricultural management. The diagram shows 20 factors including land reclamation progress, land utilization ratio, agricultural yield per 10 a (1,000 square meters), total labor and food production per unit area of land. The circle in the middle here indicates the average level of Korea. Next is the status of this village, and the line here is the goal of the village. In this way, we can expand the scale of agriculture and increase income. Agricultural management improves as we approach the outer circle. Specifically, first of all, by increasing land reclamation the amount of arable land is also expanded. The fact that we have a surplus population working in agriculture means that we have too much labor for the size of the land and the number of agricultural consumers. Household incomes are low because we do not fully utilize the labor force during the off-season. Therefore, we need to cultivate as much arable land as possible and the scale of livestock farming needs to be expanded in order to ensure that farmers can work continuously throughout the year. Next, the land utilization ratio needs to be increased and more intensive use of labor and capital is necessary. For example, you can plant melons between the furrows in a potato field, increasing the productivity of the land and consequently generating more income. After harvesting the potatoes and the melons you can plant another vegetable crop to further increase the land utilization rate. Additionally, after planting and harvesting vegetables between the barley furrows, you can plant sweet potatoes to generate even more income. Some farms are even planting potatoes, garlic and peppers in the same field, earning higher profits and increasing land utilization. Next, let us take a look at how to use rice paddies more efficiently by reducing the time that they spend idle. Planting potatoes on rice paddies allows a larger harvest at a lower cost. In particular, when you grow sprouts on seed beds you can plant earlier and sell earlier, creating more income, and the potato vines can be used as compost. In addition, growing onions through multiple cropping is another way to raise farmers’ income. Onions, which are not grown very often, can be a very economical crop because they are particularly nutritious. Usually, barley is planted for multiple cropping. Regardless of the effort or the cost, finding a way to cultivate even a small piece of land to produce a sufficient amount of food is the basic goal of agricultural management improvement. One of the most economical crops for multiple cropping is garlic because it requires little effort to grow and sells for a high price. In this way, using rice paddies or employing multiple cropping are other ways of increasing the land utilization rate and earning more income. Next, increasing agricultural production by 10 a (1,000 square meter) is another way of improving the agriculture industry. When agricultural production rises, the gross income of farms and the income per household will also increase. More profitable crops and new technology are needed in order to increase agricultural production. First of all, we can apply a top dressing technique to enhance the fertility of the soil. The top dressing technique is an effective way to improve old land and promote crop growth by preventing the soil from becoming acidic. One way to increase fertility and food production per unit area of land is to spread compost. Compost is made from weeds and it does not cost much to make, it only takes hard work. Another way to increase agricultural production per 10 a is to employ labor-intensive methods. For instance, growing barley through implantation will significantly increase harvests. Another way to improve agriculture is to increase the total labor input by rationalizing the yearly work of farming families. The number of working days in our country is significantly lower than in other countries because we mainly cultivate rice and barley. At least 200 working days per household are necessary, but our people only spend 80 days working. By increasing the number of working days, we can improve the scale of agriculture and raise income. Hence, we need to increase the efficiency of land use, consolidate dispersed land and move away from obsolete farming methods, meaning we need to favor farm machines over hoes and sickles. Labor productivity can be enhanced by rationalizing labor and by using carts or motorized vehicles to carry fertilizer and harvested crops. The sharing of modern agricultural equipment such as motorized weeders can increase labor efficiency. Working together to prevent insect damage by using powered insecticide sprayers is another way to increase labor efficiency, while collaborative rice cultivation is another example of rational labor use. Labor saved through these efficient methods can be employed to expand livestock businesses or grow labor-intensive crops. Any remaining labor can be used to perform additional work during the off-season period. For instance, farmers can keep busy throughout the year by cultivating and processing mushrooms, sweet potatoes and domestic produce, as well as by turning to beekeeping. Another issue in agricultural improvement is how to boost the productivity of the land. Land productivity is a measure of the amount of food produced per unit area of land. Generally, about 70 percent of the farmland per household is used for food production. The quantity of food produced per unit area of land must be increased in order to raise the productivity of the land. Cultivating sweet potatoes with saplings can help increase productivity. Raising grass-eating animals such as goats and rabbits, collecting their milk and slaughtering them for their meat is another way to increase land productivity. These herbivores breed fast, eat relatively little and boost land fertility by producing manure and compost, resulting in an increased harvest size and more income. If you use these methods of agricultural improvement your village will become more prosperous. If you have any further questions about farming skills, please contact the Rural Development Administration or a guidance center. Thank you.
A few days after the village meeting, our village bought rabbits and goats using what little funds we had in the community and aid provided by the Rural Development Administration. The village residents looked hopeful when these cute animals were distributed to each household. Having been united by our struggle with poverty, we embarked on our first step towards implementing new agriculture ideas in a bid to overcome poverty and create a new life of hope. The goats and rabbits became the pride of the entire community and the milk produced by each household improved our diet. Grandfathers, grandmothers, housewives and children were all engaged in taking care of these rabbits and goats while the rest of us went out to work in the rice paddies and fields. As the goats and rabbits grow, our village grows as well. This was our first real step towards agricultural improvement.