Four Korean farming and fishing communities have become the first Asian members of a network of towns dedicated to resisting the homogenization and Americanization of cities with their omniprent global franchises. Cittaslow International picked the four communities in South Jeolla Province as "slow towns" at its annual meeting in Orvieto, Italy. They are Changpyeong in Damyang County, Jeungdo Island in Sinan County, Cheongsando Island in Wando County and Yuchi village in Jangheung County.
The network praised the four for beautifully preserving tradition and community spirit while others rush into urbanization and globalization. Cittaslow -- from the Italian "citta" for "city" and "slow" as in the Slow Food organization -- is dedicated to preserving the beauty of the slow life. Many towns and villages around the world aspire to membership, but they must meet stringent criteria. Established in Italy in 1999, the network accepts only towns with a population of under 50,000 that pledge to preserve the natural environment, tradition and regional specialties while giving the heave-ho to superstores and fast food restaurants.
That's cool, and I'd actually like to learn a little more about this and what it means for these places. As a naive, snarky observer, though, this just seems part of the trend to designate every part of the country something or other. I just learned that Naju---fucking NAJU---proclaimed itself an "innovative city" back in November, joining the ranks of Jeju, Gimcheon, and Jinju. This in addition to the "Tourism and Leisure City" going up in Haenam, the "Namak New City" initiative in Muan, and the "Offensive County" movement in Gangjin. And I guess we should pretend that these four communities in counties you've never heard of intentionally rejected growth and economic development. Oh well, Jangheung's Yuchi-myeon is really charming, and there's certainly nothing wrong with countryside places embracing the countryside.
A teacher from Gwangju has an opinion piece in the Korea Times here. The conclusion:
Now is the time when we need to value the real meaning of a slow life in our thoughts, behavior, and environment, and stop pursuing the life of fast food and fast living, as it can easily lead us down the path of ``dehumanization'' by isolating us from nature.
All Koreans! Let's return to nature by embracinging the slow life as more natural, human-oriented, and valuable than the fast life, since we are just a small part of the great nature that surrounds us.
Edit: I passed through Jangheung the other day and saw quite a few signs for 유치자연휴양림, some kind of campground I guess. They have a website, and some photos. Come for the nature, stay for the wrestling: