Conflict grows over Bongha Village farmland

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Conflict grows over Bongha Village farmland

A conflict is growing in Bongha Village, the hometown of the late President Roh Moo-hyun in South Gyeongsang, over whether to permit the industrialization of a region known for its high-quality organic produce.

The conflict heated up when the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs held a nationwide evaluation on whether the designated agricultural development regions were appropriate for farming.

The ministry, on the grounds that Bongha Village was originally established through urban planning, decided to lift the development ban on the fields in June. But due to opposition by Bongha Village Co., Ltd, the action was delayed.

Bongha Village Co., Ltd. is well-known for its introduction of green farming techniques, using ducks and mud snails instead of chemicals in order to get rid of weeds and harmful insects.

The Bongha Village corporation was established when the late President Roh retired in February 2008.

But landowners claim they have tolerated enough. For them, it is depressing to sit and watch farmlands that do not sell due to the development ban.

In response to the opposition by Bongha Village Co., Ltd, the 197 landowners held a press conference at the South Gyeongsang Provincial Government Building on Tuesday, urging the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs to carry out the removal of the ban on development and renovation on the fields of Bongha Village. They even scattered herbicides around the fields as a sign of protest from Sunday to Monday.

But the corporation is firm on its opposition to the lift of the ban.

“Rice production has increased 12 times since we began green farming on these fields,” said Kim Jeong-ho, a representative of Bongha Village Co., Ltd. “The village attracts around 700 thousand tourists each year. It is imperative that we preserve this place of high historical, cultural and ecological value.” He added that the government spent 16.6 billion won ($15 million) developing the Bongha Village green project.

With landowners insisting that unfavorable decisions to lift the ban may lead to additional herbicide sprays or even the filing of an administrative litigation, the conflict only seems to be worsening.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs is planning to make its final decision at the end of this month.

BY KANG SEUNG-WOO [shon.jihye@joongang.co.kr]

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