Sunday, July 21, 2013

Korea #12 Around Campus; U. S. land reform?

I’ve written two posts in praise of Koreans living close to their food.  No sooner had a published the last one than I took an evening walk and discovered that I, too, live next to my food!

My roommate Will and I live on the bottom floor of a high rise, our window facing into a courtyard so we couldn’t see to the north.  My walk not only took me through fields of vegetables and fruit trees but 500 yards from our room I ran into at least a hundred small, beautiful white cranes, which look like ibis, living in a colony.  Amazing.   When I’ve gotten up close to small plots they have been tended by older women.  Here are a couple of pictures of the fields to the north, behind our dorm.


And that's not all. To the west is a park, in the park is a lake and in one end of the lake is a couple of acres of lotus in blossom.  People stroll around it at all hours, photographers shoot it with long lenses (see typically sun-protection clad woman) and Saturday there was to be a big day long cultural festival in the park.  The lotus is an important symbol for Buddhists.


 But back to the land use issue.

I’m still trying to understand how so much land had been  preserved, a consistent pattern throughout southern South Korea.  Dr. Duk Yi says that in 1948 the government broke up large landholdings by purchasing them from the landowners at a low price, repaid over time.  This is fascinating.  The United States occupied Korea from 1945 to 1948 when a conservative government headed by Syngman Rhee was elected.  Rhee was supported by large landowners.  Would he have taken this action?  Not likely.  I think the answer is the United States imposed land reform in Japan and Korea as part of the reforms it imposed by fiat.

The reason I think this is that after I first posted this I talked to a Japanese who owns a farm near Osaka.  It is land his grandfather farmed as a tenant farmer before World War II.  The land he farmed was made available for sale at a modest price after World War II by the U. S. administration of Japan.  What happened in Japan seem to have happened in Korea.  This is not widely known.  The U. S. imposed land reform in the late l940's in Asia?  I'm fascinated and hope to find time to investigate further.

In l946-48 Korea was extremely unstable, with riots from the left.  What is today North Korea cut off electricity to the south.  More than 700,000 Japanese who had been in Korea went home; however nearly twice that many Koreans flooded back into from Japan and China, settling largely in Seoul. 

The south was agricultural, the north industrial.  The United States had not identified Korea as important and the Secretary of State, Dean Atcheson, made clear that it was outside the umbrella of U. S. protection, which led the North to believe its 1950 invasion would not be resisted. 

That upheaval played a part in how the land is occupied today.

A little more about Chonbuk National University.  It was a rice patty when Dr. Duk Yi grew up and today it has some of the characteristics of an American land grand university.  This greenhouse complex is only a couple hundred yards from our surrounded by the natural world.

 However the university's strength must in the sciences and engineering, evidence of why Korea has grown so rapidly.  Here's banner for one of several similar seminars this summer:

The entry  sign for the building where our classes have been held....

And--apropo of nothing--women brought in to seed the lawn of the new library which came together quickly while we were there.  These women worked through the hottest day when Joenju was the hottest place in Korea.
The old and the new...



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