Rural life in Korea has been difficult through most of its history. Land policies have sometimes been unjust and taxes have often been heavy. The land is hilly, so good agricultural land is limited. Working hours are long, the labor is physically demanding, and living conditions are frequently primitive. The photo to the right shows a traditional farming village in South Korea. As Korean agriculture is modernized, this type of dwelling is being replaced by more modern single family dwellings made of cinder block, but many of the older homes remain.
The migration to the cities has been fueled by the lack
of land and jobs in the countryside. Life in the city may not be better than in the
country, but it certainly is different. Working conditions range from hard physical labor
in construction and assembly plants to typical desk jobs in modern business buildings and
school campuses. Jobs are plentiful, but living space is limited and expensive. Here we
see a typical set of new high-rises in Seoul overlooking the Han river.
Conditions in the large Korean cities are
similar to those in large American cities: smog, traffic, freeways, and big and sometimes
ugly buildings. The photo below shows a fairly typical street scene in downtown Seoul.
There may be more bicycles than in a typical U.S. city, and the signs are in a foreign
language, but otherwise this snapshot could be in any large city in America.
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