Accompanying the full-fledged retirement of baby boomers, or Koreans born between 1955 and 1963, is an explosive rise in the number of people moving out of cities and settling down in rural areas.
The Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said last week that a total of 10,503 households moved to rural areas in 2011, up 158 percent from 4,067 in 2010.
In 2001, 880 households moved away from cities and settled down in the countryside, but in 2010, when baby boomers began to retire en masse, the number started to rise markedly. Among those who made the switch last year, 77.9 percent were aged 40 to 70.
Some 52.7 percent of those who moved to rural areas last year began rice farming and other types of agriculture that do not require special equipment, while most of the remainder bought fruit orchards, started horticulture businesses or raised livestock.
However, not everyone turned to farming as a source of post-retirement income. Among those who relocated to rural areas last year, 37.7 percent enjoyed a slower pace of life with days full of leisure time by relying on their savings.
Agriculture Minister Suh Kyu-yong said, "Growing numbers of city dwellers are packing up and moving to the countryside to seek a quieter life, where they help energize and repopulate dwindling rural communities."
However, another study of households that moved to rural areas shows that a considerable number of people returned to live in cities within a year. The main reason cited for their failure to adjust to their new environment was related to illusions they harbored about country life.
An agriculture ministry official said, "Looking at those who did not succeed and ended up returning to cities, most of them thought they could simply make a profit in the countryside too soon, or were unable to endure the inconvenience of living there."