Most people refer to ‘Nonghwal’ as an abbreviation for volunteer activities for rural communities. However, the original meaning of ‘Nongchon acitivites’ is the unification of students and farmers. In the past, students and farmers interacted by talking about social reformation especially in the 1970s and 80s. Nowadays, the purpose of Nonghwal is to find a solution to reduce the gap between generation and social status, as the same members of society. Students understand the farmers’ difficulties by doing farm work. Farmers learn the culture of the twenties, and vice versa. However, considering the original intention of Nonghwal, whether it is well-managed is in question. What is worse is that the Nonghwal attendance is markedly low. For the better unification of Sogangers and the farming society, The Sogang Herald addressed the issue of Nonghwal.
Win-Win Strategy of Students and Farmers
One of the main reasons why students participate in Nonghwal is that it gives them a lesson about ‘work’. Through hard labor, students realize the value of ‘sweat’ and get satisfaction from the fact that they have endured tough work. In addition, the bond amongst students strengthens thanks to Nonghwal. Nowadays, Nonghwal activities have become more varied. Students use Nonghwal as a chance to actualize their knowledge and also as a chance to help others by using their knowledge and hobbies. The College of Natural sciences in Seoul National University(SNU) held a science camp for children in Yeongdeok-gun as one of the Nonghwal programs. Students of Seoul National University (SNU) taught children the principles of natural phenomena, which they learn in books. Those who joined the camp said that it was more worthwhile since they could see the real scene of someone being interested in what they were teaching. Children also enjoyed the camp, learning about science which was unfamiliar to them. Korea University students teaching yoga to seniors is also a good example. As University students started to project different contents to make an opportunity of exchange between farmers and students, countryside culture has become diversified. Nonghwal is good not only for students but also for local people. Whether or not farmers actually need help depends on the situation, but as the aging of populations has become more severe in rural communities, many farms still suffer from a lack of workers. To them, Nonghwal is good news. Last year, because of MERS, many farmers had a problem with work due to the decrease in workers, including students.
Chronic downside of Nongwhal
Even though the form of Nonghwal has changed, there are some remaining problems with Nonghwal that have not yet been solved. Political aspects of Nonghwal are one of the obstacles for active Nonghwal. The history of Nonghwal was quite political and sensitive in the past. The act of ‘v narod’ and the Nongchon Enlightenment movement are the origins of Nonghwal. In times of Yushin rule, Nonghwal functioned as a base for structural reform. Since Nonghwal was influenced by political and social movements in Korea, some farmers still ask students to join their protests. In fact, Sungju-gun even mobilized students for their rally. Students who didn’t notice the rally expressed discontent, saying that they did not participate in Nonghwal for the sake of joining rallies. In addition, a few students complained about the word choice of farmers, and also about the mistreatment of farmers by some participants. What locals regard as natural is not familiar to students, so they feel displeasure from time to time. There was a case in which one farmer used words which could have been thought of as sexual harassment in context. One of farmers used the word ‘Miss’ to a student and she felt that the words were intended to taunt her. The farmer in this case insisted that the word ‘Miss’ was just a name which is used to call unmarried women. Eventually, Nonghwal of Seoul National University withdrew. Regarding the mistreatment of farmers, students who went Nonghwal were also not diligent about their job. For example, students who were drunk sang loudly and made noise. Some students didn’t work at all, and instead used smart phones or chatted. Locals expressed disappointment toward these students. Lastly, as many students try to spend their vacation for self- improvement, the attendance of Nonghwal has been decreasing. The reduced number of students and their uncivilized actions arouse discord.
Nonghwal of Sogangers
Sogang University has also participated in Nonghwal, but problems still remain. One of the biggest problems of Nonghwal in Sogang is that students do not have much conation for it. In fact, one section in Liberal arts has only nine members who joined Nonghwal. Low participation exists because students already have schedules during vacation. Therefore, the schedule of Nonghwal should be arranged earlier in order to reinforce active participation. Also, students have commonly pointed out the lack of promotion as another reason of not participating in Nonghwal. Usually, representatives of Nonghwal only announce the ‘date’, not the program itself. In the case of Sogang, the database of Nonghwal is absolutely insufficient due to the absence of Chonghak for a long time. Yang Hee-jung (16, English Department) said that because she didn’t know anything about the program, she hesitated to join Nonghwal. Also, she said that she was not sure whether or not Nonghwal could actually help farmers. Kim Hee-jun (16, English Department), departmental student representative, said that promotion should have been wider and more varied so that students could be serious about the humane communication with local farmers and be sure about whether they could really be of help to the farmers. He also added that he himself became more prudent and changed his perception of Nonghwal after he heard the explanation of the essence of Nonghwal. To address this problem, the student union of Nonghwal should plan more concretely, concerning how students can get closer to farmers or how they can learn and be helpful by doing farm work. Many students who had experienced Nonghwal actually delivered that the process of preparing Nonghwal was one of their best experiences. Kim Sung-hyun (13, American Culture) who participated as a representative of Nonghwal, recalls that the discussion of ‘what is the desirable solidarity of students and farmers’ was meaningful and impressive to him. Like him, many sogangers had good memories about Nonghwal. However, the advantages of Nonghwal are not known to many. In other words, the publicity of Nonghwal and information about the condition of the countryside, are not provided to many sogangers.
What it takes to be true ‘ONE’
As pointed before, Nonghwal definitely has its own flaws. That might be main reason the participation rate of Nonghwal has been declining. The Job demands of Korean society also force students to avoid Nonghwal as an experience. Despite all the obstacles, students are the one who can make the culture of Nonghwal desirable. Through Nonghwal, we would have a chance to reflect on what we have missed out on in our busy lives, such as relaxation and affection towards people. For those who have no time to reminisce the precious values in life, Nonghwal might be a good opportunity to start at. One thing which is quite hopeful is that many other universities have already tried and succeeded in changing Nonghwal as into a place of humane connection. The camp Seoul National University (SNU) hosted is a good example which others can emulate. Sogangers should also try to create better Nonghwal by using their own abilities. To support this, the attention of sogangers towards Nonghwal is essential. Above the attention of students, creative programs and promotion to announce the program should be established.