Anyeong, Korea!

 

 

Back in 2005, as part of a cultural exchange program, I was able to set foot on Korea for the first time. Since then, I’ve been wanting to go back to the land of oppas and k-pop.

The problem is, for most if not all of my travels, they’re organized by someone else. I don’t initiate it myself. They plan everything, book the flight tickets and all, and I simply tag along. Imagine my surprise when out of nowhere, I got invited to participate in the Organic Foundation Course. And the venue was in Korea! I mean how awesome, right? Talk about the universe conspiring to give you what you earnestly hope for.

If not for this opportunity, I wouldn’t have had the chance to go to the countryside, to the beautiful Goesan County, and experience its fresh air, catch a glimpse of cherry blossoms, and eat tasty organic food.

Of course, I was able to explore a bit more of the capital, Seoul. I went to the usual touristy places – Insadong, Namdaemun Market, Gyeongbukgung Palace, and Cheonggyecheon Stream. It’s so convenient to go around with the city’s efficient transport system.

I climbed 291 steps to marvel at the nightscape of Seoul from Haneul Park located on top of a hill which used to be a landfill.

I also went to a jimjilbang or a bathhouse. It was very relaxing. You have to know that in jimjilbangs, you must be completely naked, but this didn’t faze me at all. To be honest, it actually felt liberating, no pun intended.

Kamsamnida to my Korean friends who were the best babysitters, kkk (hahaha in Korean). Thank you for touring me around and stuffing me with all these amazing Korean dishes which you should try – bulgogi, haejangguk (amusingly, known as a hangover soup), kimchi jjigae (kimchi stew), mul naengmyeon (noodles in ice soup), tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes), and dak galbi (spicy chicken stir fry).

Now I should decide where to go next and hope for the universe to once again conspire to bring me there.

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Musings on the ALGOA Organic Foundation Course

With people becoming more concerned of the state of the environment, who are also clamoring for safe and healthy food, the organic movement is slowly gaining attraction worldwide.

I got to learn more about the movement when I participated in the 2018 Asian Local Governments for Organic Agriculture (ALGOA) Organic Foundation Course. ALGOA is a project initiated by International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM)- Asia.

This year, there were 27 participants from 12 countries namely Korea, India, Philippines, Kyrgyzstan, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, Bhutan, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Indonesia.

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The course participants with the LGU officials of Goesan  County (Photo from IFOAM-Asia).
Goesan County in Chungbuk Province, Korea was the perfect place to have the training program with its natural and beautiful environment. It is one of the birthplaces of organic farming in Korea. It is almost isolated that not so many Koreans themselves know of the place but it turns out that this could be an advantage for the preservation of nature and for organic agriculture to thrive.

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Goesan County, Chungbuk Province, Korea
During the Welcome Ceremony, the Mayor of Goesan said that he had three presents for us – the fresh air, organic food, and sticky corn. We, the participants gladly enjoyed these three.

Organic agriculture, as defined by IFOAM, is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems, and people. In its core are the principles of health, ecology, fairness, and care. These principles were evident when we talked to local farmers, visited farms, and went to Hansalim, a cooperative established by both producers and consumers. One farmer we talked to said that they provide safe and healthy food for consumers and in turn, the consumers ensure that the producers can continue to make a living through farming. It was truly inspiring to see this sense of community built on mutual trust. It was also equally inspiring to meet young farmers. Young people would not normally choose to go into farming and prefer to work in offices in the city but it’s amazing how these individuals chose a road less traveled, so to speak.

During the training, we learned about JADAM organic farming (low cost agriculture); biodynamic farming (farming that follows the rhythms and cycles of nature); Organic Guarantee Systems; value chain; innovations; and marketing methods among others. Our minds were fed and our bodies, too – with organic produce that is local, fresh, and diverse.

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Local, fresh, and diverse organic food.
To cap off the course, we attended the 4th ALGOA Summit, which brought together local governments and the private sector to discuss policies and ways to promote organic agriculture.

David Gould of IFOAM Organics International said that all of the Sustainable Development Goals can be linked to food. We must then realize the connections between healthy people, healthy food, and healthy farms. It’s still a long way to go for the organic movement to be truly embraced but through our collective efforts, we can work together towards a more sustainable future.