Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A human interest story out of rural South Korea

This story by Choe Sang-Hun in today's New York Times describes various aspects of rural society in the Republic of South Africa, where many foreign brides have migrated in recent years to wed farmers. The focus of the story, though, is 39-year-old Lee Si-Kap, described as a "shy farmer" whose hobby is collecting and erecting satellite dishes, which he uses to watch television broadcasts fom all over the world. The dateline for the story is Yeongju, which is described repeatedly as a "rural" area in central Korea. Here are some excerpts:
Since late last year, he and thousands of fellow satellite enthusiasts — including the husbands of foreign brides and a few dedicated souls searching for signals from extraterrestrial life forms — have started a campaign to install free satellite dishes for poor foreign brides living in rural South Korea, so they can receive broadcasts from their home countries.
* * *
In recent years, the South Korean countryside has had an influx of brides from poorer countries like Vietnam, China and the Philippines. Like Ms. Bui, they marry South Korean farmers who have difficulty finding a spouse because so many young Korean women have rejected rural life and migrated to cities.
* * *
In South Korea, which had once prided itself on being a homogeneous society, 4 out of 10 women who married in rural communities last year were foreign born.
In Yeongju, for example, the number of foreign brides increased by nearly 30% in the past 18 months. Half of the women are from Vietnam, and like those from other countries, they are happy for the opportunity to be connected to their homelands by watching television via the satellite dishes Mr. Lee helps to install.

The headline reminds me of an issue of import to the rural United States. It is "Rural South Koreans' Global Links Grow, Nourished by a Satellite Crop." If only the U.S. government were so interested in linking its rural communities to the rest of the world by subsidizing broadband service ... .

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