Guerrilla gardening is an activity that began in England with its primary goal of changing an abandoned land into a flower garden. In Korea, the program has extended to a broader term of gardening and farming.
“The main thrust of guerrilla gardening we are planning is similar to that of England’s,” said Yoo Hee-jeong, the leader of Myeong Rang Si Dae. “However, we are different in that we try to progress gardening in multiple ways. We not only plant flowers but also cultivate edible plants.”
The name Myeong Rang Si Dae means bright young people looking for alternative ways in farming. Members of Myeong Rang Si Dae are composed of people in their 20s to 40s with enthusiasm in farming and gardening. As the Korean government supports the back-to-earth movement in family units only, the organization aims to approach young people.
“There is little support for the unmarried, while many of our members who do not have plans for marriage have plans to live in the countryside later on,” Yoo said. “So, we have reached the conclusion that there is a need for an organization that allows young farmers to pursue values of their own, apart from what the society demands.”
Unlike many active organizations where there are rules and set schedules, Myeong Rang Si Dae pursues autonomy, free from all regulations.
Before they had decided to initiate the guerrilla gardening in Hongdae Pedestrian-Friendly Street, members relied on impromptu meetings. In these impromptu meetings, they discussed the farming culture in Korea and how people are used to buying crops and neglecting the importance of farming.
“By inviting others to join the activity, we wanted to let people know that anyone can experience the bliss of gardening with just a shovel and a bag of seedlings,” Yoo said.
The members anticipate others to think of a garden as a playground. They believe that farming and planting is a natural activity that people should be familiar with. The first official guerrilla gardening took place in the streets of Hongdae as it is one of the most popular places among young people.
“We heard there were abandoned corners in the Pedestrian-Friendly Street and thought that Hongdae would be the perfect place to start our activity,” Yoo said.
Songs played by volunteer musicians during the event attracted people’s attention. Many pedestrians expressed interest in the event.
“We are satisfied that many people are becoming interested in guerrilla gardening,” Yoo said. “We were partly worried that our work would be interrupted by the police or stores as some people could misunderstand our activity to be rebellious and anti-social.”
Other members of Myeong Rang Si Dae also expressed satisfaction about the event.
“I think it is amazing how visitors of Hongdae will be able to see a small garden from now on when before, it was just barren soil,” said Jung Si-nae, slow-food activist who participated in the first guerilla project. “Looking at a beautiful garden in the middle of a city, we want people to feel the importance of raising crops.”
Some members put deeper meanings in the guerrilla gardening event.
“I study sociology in college, and for the past few months, I gave up on the hope that I could change the society,” Kim Tae-hong (Kyung Hee University, 3) said. “However, by participating in the guerrilla gardening, I realized that this is a new form of city revolution.”
The guerrilla gardening event itself ended in 40 minutes, but Myeong Rang Si Dae holds more vision for its future.
“Tonight’s event is not over yet,” Yoo said. “Even though we have planted flowers and vegetables to pave the road to guerrilla gardening, it is the local residents’ role to sustain the garden. We hope that this garden will contribute to creating a greener atmosphere in the Hongdae Pedestrian-Friendly Street.”