Farm villages offer rustic resting spot

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Farm villages offer rustic resting spot

When the concrete walls of Seoul get too dreary, it’s time to get out of the city and into the countryside, and with autumn here, it’s a great time to reconnect with the rural parts of Korea.
Staying in the country could be a bit trying, due to lack of modern amenities, but many city dwellers think it’s worth it, if only for the rare chance to relax in a quiet, pastoral setting. The government has a list of villages that are open to tourists who want to see what life on a farm would be like.
One popular farm village is Sottong-ryeong, Goseong county, Gangwon province, where the harvest is about to begin.
About 10 kilometers (6.3 miles) down from the Jinbu ridge, Sottong-ryeon, home to 32 households, sits to the right of a small basin. The 95 residents make their living on a 21-hectare piece of land.
Everything about the village, even the name (sottong means cow manure in Korean), is reminiscent of Korea’s farm days.
Going from Goseong to Wontongjang, a large number of cows leave their tracks in front of a village inn at the top of the peak. A narrow walking path still runs through the forest on Jinbu ridge.
Across Jangsin stream, which flows along the No. 46 road to Ganseong, visitors can see modern pensions at the entrance to the village. They are privately owned lodges recently built after the government registered the village as a place for tourists to explore farming activities.
These pensions can be disappointing to those who are looking for the more traditional lodgings of a farm village, but they make a stay in Sottong-ryeong much more comfortable.
Although the fields are not large, crops grown here include rice, peppers, beans, corn, potatoes, sesame, chestnuts, pears and grapes. In the stream, there is freshwater fish, and on a nearby mountain, wild greens and acorns are bountiful.
The main source of income for Sottong-ryeong village comes from sales of song-i, or champignon, mushrooms. Fifteen kilograms (33 pounds) of first-grade song-i mushrooms cost more than 150,000 won ($130).
These mushrooms grow in many areas of the mountain, and farmers can take visitors to their fields to pick the fungi. From September through October, farmers are busy not only picking mushrooms but also protecting the areas from poachers.
Despite the importance of the mushrooms to the farmers, they agreed to include mushroom picking in the tourist exploration programs.
First, it helps the farmers because it allows them to sell mushrooms directly to urban residents.
Second, each visitor pays 20,000 won to a farmer who has a designated area for tourists. The tourists are limited in how many mushrooms they can pick.
Those who want to pick certain kind of produce can pay 5,000 won to farmers to visit their fields. Other villagers take turns as guides for more general activities, such as fishing and acorn picking.
Local women participate in special programs that give visitors a chance to make traditional dishes, including acorn jelly, bean curd, grounded potato pie, bean paste, red bean porridge and wild grape spirits.
Visitors pay a 7,000 won fee, which includes lunch. Acorns found on the hiking trail will be used to prepare the food.

by Choi Hyeon-chul

There are 562 farm villages open to tourists. The Web site www.greentour. (English available) provides a list of the villages. Because the programs are in a developing stage, most villages do not have a wide range of activities.
Sottong-ryeong village is not registered on the Green Tour Web site, but it has its own at (Korean only). The village can also be reached at (033) 681-2815.
For Sottong-ryeong village, Hana Gangsan sells a three-day package for 178,000 won.
The best time to visit is during a local festival. During these periods, reservations for activities are often required, and groups of 10 people or more are preferred.
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