Back to the Soil
KOREA / 2004 / Korean / Color / Video / 85 min
Director, Editing, Narrator: Kwon Woo-jung
Photography: Kwon Woo-jung, Jang Ho-kyoung, Park Jong-phil, Han Bum-seung
Sound: Kim Beung-oee
Music: Kim Ilann
Assistant Director: Jang Ho-kyoung
Production Company, World Sales: Docuin
In South Chungcheong Province, Korea, a young couple has left the city in order to become farmers, fulfilling the dreams of the husband who was raised on a farm. Coping with the unfamiliarities of farm life, the couple are faced with further difficulties such as trial-and-error harvesting, rallies against the expansion of the Free Trade Agreement, their young daughter’s operation, and the illness of his father. Amidst a changing agricultural system and the challenges of starting a new life, tensions surface between older farmers, and between husband and wife. We are drawn in by the exhilarating smiles that the camera gleams during its time with the family.
[Director’s Statement] The demonstrations of farmers have appeared violent in the media, drawing our attention away from what they are trying to say. People often say they know farmers are going through tough times, but that there is no choice but to accept the global agricultural trend. The reality is that we only know a small part of the lives of farmers in the countryside. I wanted to better understand about how they live and why they continue to farm in spite of the difficulties. I thought that the best way to uncover more facts was to live with them for a period of one year from the beginning to the end of the farming operation.
I happened to meet Mr. Lee Geun-hyeok who returned to Buyeo County in South Chungcheong Province five years ago. Spending a year living with him, I saw many things happen to his family. The death of his father who was also a farmer, his daughter Jo-eun’s third surgical operation, and the ratification of the Korea-Chile Free Trade Agreement have made his agricultural life more difficult. However, the commitment that Mr. Lee, his family members and other local farmers had toward their reality made me realize how important it is to maintain values in life as well as to make an effort to work with each other to overcome difficulties.
Despite the government indifference to the local agricultural industry and its policy to abandon it, Mr. Lee holds on to a small hope in order to sustain the farming operation on which he relies. He is now engaged in the farmers’ campaign for farming revitalization with his neighbors in this small village. He will never stop farming until the world realizes that food is indispensable and not something to be traded away.
Kwon Woo-jung graduated from the VJ school at the Citizens’ Coalition for Democratic Media and made 3 cm of Freedom, We Fight for Our Own Rights in 2000. In the same year, she co-directed the documentary Discovering the Cultural Artifacts of Kyoung-gi commissioned by the Kyoung-gi Cultural Foundation. In 2001 she co-directed After the Special Law on Agricultural Income Families Debt, the Way to Survival for Our Agriculture which was broadcast on KBS. She worked as cinematographer and director for Giving is Hope. Her film, The Age of the Open Agricultural Market, the 2001 Report (2003) was shown at a Docuin special showing as well as the Suwon Human Rights Film Festival.