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Tired of bustling big city life, urbanites explore rural lifestyles during weekends

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Park So-yeon, a 28-year-old Seoul resident and yoga instructor, poses near Mount Gyeryong in South Chungcheong Province on July 16. Courtesy of Park So-yeon
Park So-yeon, a 28-year-old Seoul resident and yoga instructor, poses near Mount Gyeryong in South Chungcheong Province on July 16. Courtesy of Park So-yeon

By Park Ji-won

Park So-yeon, 28, a yoga instructor in Seoul, leaves the city for a house located near Mount Gyeryong in South Chungcheong Province, about 140 kilometers southwest of Seoul, once she is done with her busy workweek.

The house is owned by her friend's parents, and there she relaxes doing only yoga and essential household chores. She also works on a farm near the house, exploring a rural lifestyle that is completely different to her weekdays in the city.

"For my work as a yoga instructor, I need to travel a lot and take a subway to meet students. I can easily get stressed out and exhausted on the crowded subway, as there is no personal space there," she told The Korea Times. "Spending four to five days in the city and two days in the countryside is perfect for a balanced life. It makes me feel alive. I am planning to continue to live like this."

"I feel grateful to live in the city because I can easily buy food, meet my friends and be part of a yoga network that is centered on Seoul. But I have often felt that something is missing in my urban life and have wanted to explore Mother Nature," she said. Near her weekend home, there are no convenience stores or supermarkets.

Park So-yeon heads back inside after gathering some vegetables near Mount Gyeryong on Aug. 8. Courtesy of Park So-yeon
Park So-yeon heads back inside after gathering some vegetables near Mount Gyeryong on Aug. 8. Courtesy of Park So-yeon

An eggplant lasagna made with locally sourced ingredients / Courtesy of Park So-yeon
An eggplant lasagna made with locally sourced ingredients / Courtesy of Park So-yeon

Before she began living this hybrid urban-rural lifestyle, Park travelled around a lot searching for a way out of her bustling urban life that left her stressed out and tired. Finding reasonable accommodations for every trip also required quite an investment of her time and energy.

Realizing traveling is just a temporary outlet, she decided to seek out a single place where she could spend her weekends. Her ideal location should not be far away from Seoul but should be close to nature so that she can easily travel back and forth between her two residences.

This lifestyle colloquially known as "5-do 2-chon" in Korean ― and loosely interpreted as "5 days-city, 2 days-countryside" for those in the know ― was something people in their 50s or 60s commonly pursued as a stepping stone to retirement. "Do" is a contraction of "dosi" ("city" in Korean) while "chon" ("village" or "rural area") can refer to the countryside.

The expression was, until recently, used primarily by urbanites in their 50s, who were interested in transitioning to a rural life of farming during their retirement. However, increasingly, this lifestyle of living in the city during the week and recuperating in the countryside on the weekend has been gaining popularity among younger people.



In June of last year, the launching of a MBC's vlog channel, "Onulun," on YouTube, made headlines for both its unique content and its high-quality videos, as it is MBC's first official vlog channel created and run by a full-time producer.

Choi Byeol, a 32-year-old MBC producer, started to produce videos about her journey in buying a 115-year-old house in the southwestern city of Gimje, North Jeolla Province, about 200 kilometers outside Seoul, approximately three-and-a-half hours from Seoul, where she was "beginning" her life from scratch. Choi works from the small provincial city and communicates remotely with her colleagues in Seoul. The first video in the series had 2.48 million total views as of Sept. 22 this year. The channel has since grown and now has nearly 300,000 subscribers.

"One of the reasons I wanted to move here and take time out was that I wanted to write ― to remove myself from distractions and focus on myself, to be able to write about me. And I found myself doing exactly that, as I wrote descriptions to put in the vlog," she told The Korea Times in a recent interview.

Experts say that this new lifestyle trend reflects how young people are increasingly seeking to separate their lives from their work in the effort to achieve more work-life balance.

"Following the advent of the pandemic, many companies adopted remote work or working from home, and new jobs connected to the platform economy have also emerged. Through changing technologies, people now work without having to meet in person. Along with this general social transformation, people have started thinking in new ways, such as by having multiple life bases in different places," Jeon Young-soo, a professor of Global Social Economy Studies at Hanyang University told The Korea Times.

"Living in the city has historically been the center of attention in Korea, due to the employment and educational opportunities it offers, as well as the fact that it has many convenient amenities. There is also the old stereotype that urban young people will have a hard time if they leave the city and try to live elsewhere," Jeon explained. "This kind of conventional model emphasizing urban life was predominant during Korea's period of high economic growth, when people's resources were increasing, as this kind of life had many attractive aspects. However, these days, in general, people's values have been changing, and there is also the pressure of low economic growth, so with all of these things intertwined, the awareness that a tough life in the city is not the answer has been growing."

"The '5-do 2-chon' phenomenon practiced by (a subset of) the younger generation is a reflection of this transformation in people's ways of thinking, and an important option for people to have multiple life and work bases," he continued.

"We will likely see fewer people following the existing model of moving to the countryside after retiring from work in the city. Instead, more people are accepting this new lifestyle of traveling between the city and the countryside as a realistic choice. This change was already on the way before, but the pandemic has hastened it."


Park Ji-won jwpark@koreatimes.co.kr


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