The last blog I wrote was about my escapades throughout Boseong, and particularly the green tea fields. But I got to partake in another very special experience while there, and I feel it merits its own blog! My friends and I were able to visit a hemp farm that specifically produces hemp textiles, another specialty of Boseong. Unfortunately, I’m not sure if it’s open to the public without appointment and I had the special opportunity to go as a group. In this blog I will talk about the highlights of our day at the hemp farm and tell you why you should visit it during your time teaching in Korea.
A husband and wife duo are responsible for the Boseong hemp products. Regrettably the name of the wife escapes me, but the husband’s name is Mr. Lee Chang-sik. Mr. Lee has been working on the hemp farm for 43 years and his wife has been making clothes for 50 years. The farm is so obviously dear to them, in a way which encapsulates far beyond it just being their livelihood. Every day, Mr. Lee walks around the outer limits of the farm and picks up accumulated trash and recyclables. He cares so much about keeping his property and the environment beautiful. Every hemp product that comes from his farm is made entirely by hand. And what’s most impressive? Mrs. Lee is still one of the only ones who is able to make the clothing. Apart from Mrs. Lee, there are three other ajummas, an endearing and respectful term for women well into their years. These women were all well into their 80s or 90s, and the work is becoming too difficult.
Unfortunately, handmade hemp products are no longer in high demand, and Mr. and Mrs. Lee are worried about their business. There is obviously a lot of controversy about hemp production as it is as Mr. Lee expressed that the government has vilified hemp products in the past to distract the public from larger, more serious issues. But to make matters worse, he said, South Korea imports cheaper, low quality hemp products from China. He has decided to work hard with low income because he believes in his products and farm, while most hemp farmers have turned their direction of hemp production into more effective and productive ones, like hemp seeds and hemp oil.
I believe it important to highlight local businesses whenever possible, especially when they offer such an exquisite product and experience. Visiting the farm was not only informative, but so beautiful. Mr. and Mrs. Lee are a joyful couple with so much energy and kindness. They gave us fresh fruit and let us try our hand at making hemp clothing. Before we were able to visit the hemp farm itself, Mr. Lee had to call the police to receive their approval, as he does each time a non-worker wants to see the plants.
I highly recommend visiting Mr. and Mrs. Lee and learning about their craft. You can even buy one-of-a-kind hemp products! I didn’t buy anything because the high quality is reflected in the high price, but if you have the means, the valuable products last a life-time and are worth every penny.
Linda Gaida was raised in Spartanburg, South Carolina and graduated from Washington and Lee University in 2016 with a degree in Romance Languages. While passionate about environmental studies and conservation, her interests now lean towards education! Her curiosities and studies have taken her to Romania, Portugal, Peru, India, and now South Korea, where she works as an English teacher for ChungDahm Learning in Busan. Deciding to teach abroad was an easy decision to make for Linda: while she gets to experience a culture foreign to her own, she is able to benefit the global society by teaching children English and helping them pursue their own ambitions. Linda is also interested in yoga, climbing, hiking, backpacking (anything involving movement), cooking and writing poetry.