▲ Joongseon Farm consists of an art gallery, cafe, library, and guesthouse situated within an orange farm Photo courtesy Kim Sang-tae
From the outside, Joongsun Farm looks like a typical Jeju farm. You can see a trail leading to a field of orange trees and four buildings built with Jeju’s famous volcanic rock.
However, look a little closer and you will start to see something different. The buildings, for example, have big glass windows. The roofs are a little higher than usual.
This is because Joongsun Farm isn’t a farm but a space designed for culture. The four buildings aren’t farm equipment storage, but actually make up an art gallery, a library, a cafe, and a guest house.
Jung Jae-ho and Kim Jung-won are the directors. They explained how the buildings were originally built by the family who owned the farm in 1979. The gallery was an orange storage facility, the library a place where machines and tools were kept.
▲ Jung Jae-ho, a director, sharing a story of the Joongsun farm Photo courtesy The Jeju Weekly
The couple, with the wishes of the farm owner, decided that instead of knocking down the original buildings and making something new, they would repurpose the original buildings to fit their current needs.
Jae-ho explained about how the owner of the building wanted to preserve the buildings as an example of how things used to be.
Buildings don’t only have a practical use. Contained within the walls and the architecture are aspects of Jeju’s culture, and on a personal level, the history of the family who lived there.
While many new buildings have outer facades or are built with a certain style in mind, the buildings on the farm are made from the volcanic rock that you can find throughout Jeju. The fact that they are literally built using the island means they are filled with Jeju culture and history.
▲ The gallery at Joongsun Farm Photo courtesy Kim Sang-tae
Despite now living in Seoul, the owner still feels deeply about his hometown, his family, and his youth and keeping the building in tact was the family's way of preserving this culture.
Of course, that doesn't mean that Jae-ho and Jung-won could just move straight in. They explained that when they first arrived at the farm, the buildings were in no state to be used for anything. Even storing oranges would have been a stretch.
The old roofs were letting in rain so they had to refit them. They also wanted to flood the buildings with natural light so put in large spaces for windows in the walls.
In total, it took the couple nine months from April last year to refit the buildings for their current purpose.
In terms of the current buildings, it is clear that the couple put great value on the importance of culture. While the farm and the building in it are undoubtedly from Jeju, the directors want to bring well known culture from the rest of Korea to the small rural village.
The art work they choose for the gallery is chosen to be accessible to a large number of people. As such, they try to focus on well known, contemporary work by Korean artists and present it in a unique way befitting for a smaller rural gallery.
▲ Nam June Paik’s exhibition held at Joongsun Farm Photo courtesy Joongsun Farm
The current space may be small but Jae-ho explained how he wanted to give people who come to his gallery in a rural village just as valuable an experience as people who go to one of the big galleries in Seoul.
By choosing more well known names, as opposed to up and coming talents, Jae-ho hopes that the art will be more accessible and more likely to garner an interest from both locals and tourists alike.
As well as the gallery, the other cultural space is a small library. It is filled with books written in both Korean and also a surprisingly large selection in English. The library is a space where people can come and read and enjoy their time on the farm.
In a time when orange farms, a traditional good source of income for many Jeju residents are becoming less profitable, the land is frequently being repurposed for something else. While this is only natural, if too many farms get built on then we risk not only losing a key part of Jeju’s culture, but also losing the many benefits that the orange farms offer.
Jae-ho told us a story about his friends mother. She suggested that instead of looking at the farm as a place where profits are to be made, we can look at it as a garden that can give us value by helping us relax, keeping us close to nature, and being a reminder of a way people used to live.
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