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Back to the Soil
A Film by Kwon Woo-jung
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In 1998 Lee Geun Hyuk left the city, along with his wife and infant daughter, for Korea's South Chungcheong Province to begin a new life in farming. Lee harbored no romantic illusions about becoming a farmer, since he had been born and raised in a farming family, but he believed strongly in the importance of traditional agriculture and in the urgent need to organize a farmers' movement to protest new government policies.

To produce BACK TO THE SOIL, documentary filmmaker Kwon spent a year living with and filming the Lee family, chronicling with remarkable intimacy their numerous difficulties-such as harvesting on a trial-and-error basis, Lee's role in leading militant rallies against the expansion of the Free Trade Agreement, and the emotional impact of their young daughter's heart operation and the illness and death of Lee's father.

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BACK TO THE SOIL thus functions as both an emotionally engaging portrait of the young couple's challenges in starting a new life as well as a revealing depiction of a rapidly changing agricultural system that threatens to destroy traditional farming methods. On a more personal level, the film shows how Lee's fight for his beliefs creates tensions between him and older, more apathetic farmers in the community, and how his newfound political militancy creates emotional strains between him and his wife.

In portraying the impact of the Korean government's new policies that abandon small national farmers in favor of a globalized agrobusiness, flooding the market with cheap imported rice and other foods, a trend against which Lee is valiantly striving to sustain and revitalize traditional farming, BACK TO THE SOIL dramatizes a situation facing small farmers not only in Korea but also throughout the world.

"Demonstrates how difficult it is, even for well-educated and determined individuals, to displace the massive influx of cheap agricultural commodities in the world economic order. Highly recommended."—Educational Media Reviews Online

2005 Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival
2005 Green Film Festival (Korea)
2004 Seoul Independent Film Festival
2004 Gangju Human Rights Film Festival

84 minutes / color
Release: 2006
Copyright: 2004
Sale: $348

Subject areas:
Agriculture, Asia, Cultural Anthropology, East Asia, Environment, Fair Trade, Farm Policy, Family Relations, Farming, Food & Hunger, Geography, Globalization, Korea, Labor Studies, Local Food, Politics, Sustainability

Related Titles:
Bittersweet Joke: Examines the experiences of single mothers in South Korea, where there remains a strong social taboo against single parenthood.

Seeds of Hunger: A global investigation into the evolving nature of food production, and the crisis it may portend.

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Last Updated August 17, 2015
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