Nature lovers catch spirit of Mount Jiri

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Nature lovers catch spirit of Mount Jiri

In Hwagae village, Ha-dong district, south of Mount Jiri, where it is said flowers bloom earlier than in other parts of Korea, there is a group of people known as “Jirisan Masildan.” These 10 writers and artists left the urban life to pursue a life in nature.
Park Nam-jun, 47, and Lee Won-gyu, 42, are both poets. Lee Chang-su, 44, is a photographer, and Kim Yong-hoe, 38, is a craft artist. Nam Nan-hi joined the life on the mountain with her son, who wishes to be a monk.
One of the things they have in common is that they all like drinking green tea and alcohol and want to have a simple life surrounded by nature. Most of them live in old, empty wooden houses and use firewood for heating.
In the beginning, life in Hwagae wasn’t so simple, but now they all manage to live without worrying about hunger and enjoy creating art from time to time.
Occasionally, they catch sweetfish in Seomjin River. When they eat it, they drink soju made from grains. “It is like living the life of a hermit,” Lee Won-gyu said.
Masildan was born in the late 1990s. People fleeing the cities flocked to Hwagae because the village was known for its warm weather.
The early days of mountain life were difficult. “I was hungry and didn’t have any money, so I took some coins donated by Buddhist worshippers at the Ssanggye Temple,” one member said.
Gu Wol-son, 49, the owner of Danya restaurant, where Masildan members often gathered, also joined the group. She even closes her restaurant to go to Seoul to see exhibitions by its fellow members.
For painter and artist Kim Yong-hoe’s wedding near the Seomjin River in 2000, photographer Lee Chang-su took pictures of the newlyweds as Ms. Gu cooked for the guests, and the two poets recited congratulatory poems.
After the initial rough period, these nature lovers adopted a laid-back attitude toward life. Kim Yong-hoe one day had his paintings stolen, but he said to himself, “These things happen.” Nam Nan-hee also came to have a similar attitude and even encourages her son in his desire to become a monk.

by Kwon Hyuk-joo
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