Gwanghwamun Rice Harvesting Event
Date: October 6, 2012
Venue: Gwanghwamun Square
Hello everyone, I am Park Won Soon, the mayor of Seoul Metropolitan City. Here, in Gwanghwamun Square, which is a major hub of Korea and the center of Seoul, we have yellow ears of rice. It is heartwarming to see such dignity of life in the midst of a city crowded with buildings and cars.
Last spring, a few citizens told me that they wanted to cultivate rice in Gwanghwamun Square. Some expressed doubts, saying that it was not possible to engage in agricultural activities in a city covered with concrete. Despite such doubts, and amid a mixture of concern and anticipation, rice was planted and grown in boxes in front of Sejong Center for the Performing Arts, enduring drought in spring and scorching heat in midsummer. For growing this rice, I would like to thank the Gwanghwamun farmers, as well as the sky, wind, and sun.
In June, Seoul Metropolitan City declared this year the first year of urban agriculture in Seoul. As such, rice was planted here in Gwanghwamun as well as on Nodeulseom Island, and crops were cultivated in vegetable gardens throughout Seoul. The rice harvesting and threshing that was done as part of today’s event was conducted using the same method that our ancestors used to use while singing Madeul Nongyo (Farmers’ Song, Intangible Cultural Asset No. 22 of Seoul Metropolitan City), in an effort to preserve the tradition.
I am the son of a farmer in Changnyeong, Gyeongsangnam-do Province. When I was young, I followed my father to the rice paddies and watched and learned how rice seeds sprout and how seedlings are transplanted, cultivated, and grown. I learned the value and honor of hard work and, by watching how the rice endured the wind and rain, I recognized the dignity of life. To me, agriculture is like a textbook that taught me the most valuable lesson in the world, and I wanted to share that lesson with you by promoting urban agriculture in Seoul. In addition, I hope this event promotes food self-sufficiency and mutual prosperity of cities and rural villages in Korea. As I am now actually harvesting rice in Gwanghwamun, the center of Seoul, I believe my efforts have not been in vain.
The 7,000 ears of rice that we harvest today are the result of the efforts of 76 local governments that produce quality rice nationwide and 19 branches of the National Agricultural Cooperative Federation in Seoul. I am grateful for the presence of representatives of local governments, who have traveled a long way to come here today, and the staff of the Seoul branch of the Agricultural Cooperative Federation. These grains of rice will become seeds for reconciliation between cities and rural villages.
I look forward to eating a nice, hot bowl of the Gwanghwamun rice that we are harvesting today. Let us harvest together. Thank you.