Enough of being a town mouse

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Enough of being a town mouse

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The International Herald Tribune, the global edition of The New York Times, reported last week that people are leaving cities for the countryside in Spain, which has become the next critical patient for the euro zone.

With the Spanish unemployment rate at 25 percent, it is practically impossible to find a job. The youth unemployment rate is more than 40 percent. So more and more city folks are packing up and moving in search of a second career in the countryside. Their choice is notable since they are not relocating as a temporary solution to go through the economic crisis; they are moving to rural villages to change their lives. The rural lifestyle is emerging as an alternative for young Spaniards. The reverse migration from city to country has been dubbed “Rurbanismo.”

Some sociologists point out that the movement was not inspired by the economic crisis, though Spain’s crippled economy has certainly accelerated the trend. Instead, it began because the development of Internet made it possible to work from anywhere. It may be as natural a phenomenon as industrialization spurring people to move to cities, that the people are returning to the country in post-industrial society. Koreans also are increasingly moving back to the countryside, although we have different motivations. According to the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the number of households moving from cities to rural areas has been growing over the past decade. In 2001, 880 households migrated to the country, 1,240 households in 2005 and 4,067 households in 2010. Last year, the number drastically increased to 10,503 households. In the first half of this year, 8,706 families relocated to rural villages. More than half of the reverse-migrants are of age 50 and older, a sign that as baby boomers retire, many of them choose to spend their twilight years in rural villages.

Those who know from experience say country living is not as easy as one may think. It is far from a romantic pastoral life. Without thorough preparation and firm determination, people often struggle and fail. The government should more actively offer plans to assist people moving to country to encourage better distribution and create new jobs. Individuals interested in rural life need to make an effort to increase their chance of success by testing the lifestyle through the farming internship system.

When I get together with friends, retirement is always one of the main topics. When I hear news that someone has bought a parcel of land or someone spends weekends in the country, I get nervous. Some friends argue that city life is better for the elderly, but more seem to believe that rural living is the answer. The baby boomers who had moved to the cities during the era of industrialization may have an instinct to return to the countryside.

Maybe we have had enough of being a town mouse and now want to live as a country mouse.

* The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Bae Myung-bok

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