South Korea: Aged farming population causes shift in local produce

Seongju County in North Gyeongsang Province is famous for Oriental melons, which are a main source of revenue for farmers in the region that is known to produce some 70 percent of the fruit available in Korea. Seongju County Agriculture Technology Center reported that as most of the farmers are elderly, they are switching to crops that are less physically demanding to grow.

An increasing number of Seongju farmers, however, are giving up this profitable crop due to their age. As this generation of farmers is getting older each year, they are finding it harder to bend over and squat to cultivate and harvest the fruit that grows in sprawling ground vines. That is why these farmers are increasingly switching to Shine Muscat, an increasingly popular variety of grapes.

The aging of farmers is affecting crops in other regions too. Goryeong County in North Gyeongsang province, which is known for sweet watermelon, thanks to its fertile soil, is also seeing farmers give up cultivating watermelon.

According to, the area dedicated to watermelon farming decreased by half during the past five years, as elderly farmers find handling the heavy watermelons burdensome. The county has a population of 30,000, 44 percent of whom are aged 60 or older, which compares with just 29 percent 10 years ago. Instead, the farmers in Goryeong are switching to growing onions.

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