It was around the end of my 20s. I go to work at 6 am and leave at 12 pm. The nickname ‘the youngest team leader’ from the company and a salary of 5 million won. Eating lunch and having a cup of coffee, when stress piled up, shopping at a department store and getting a nail beauty service was a daily routine. One day, a book called <I bought a country house with 20 million won> (written by Oh Mi-suk, published in Po Book) caught my eye in a bookstore. It was a dreamy story about a housewife who used to live in the city, living in a country house with a minimal budget and living between the city and the countryside.
Suddenly, I remembered my grandmother’s house in Goryeong-gun, North Gyeongsang Province, where I used to stay for a month during vacation when I was young. The cute flowers that bloomed in the spacious yard, the furnace, the Gudeul room, thatched house… . He wanted to live the ‘life he wanted’ before it was too late. ‘Yes, I should buy a country house.’ And it took nearly 10 years to realize this romance. This is the story of Kim Su-ran (39), who bought a country house in Sangju, North Gyeongsang Province for 18 million won.
■ I bought a house over 70 years old
On the day of July 21, 2023, I visited Kim Su-ran’s country house ‘Sangju Hanok’ in Yongdam 3-ri. After passing the cattle shed, the green field, and the pear grove, a small house appeared between the village hall and the rice mill. The yellow flowers planted along the fence and the orange jacaranda in front of the gate showed the personality of a diligent landlord who loves flowers. When I opened the gate and entered, I came to a small country house main building and outbuilding, a swimming pool with sky blue tiles, and a small vegetable garden with green and red tomatoes intertwined.
“I bought this house in October 2020. It was a house that people didn’t even look at because it was on the verge of collapse. To what extent, the toilet was a conventional toilet with a jar buried and two wooden boards placed on it. The bathroom walls were all crumbling. I chose it because I didn’t have the budget. It took over two years to fix.”
The reason I decided to buy a house that was over 70 years old, when no one wanted to buy it for a year and a half, was because of ‘Flower’. The green vegetable garden left by the former landlord, a 93-year-old grandmother, before she passed away was also friendly, but especially the red rose vines tangled around the house caught my eye.
“At the time, I didn’t know it would take so much work. Originally, the repair budget was set at 10 million won, but as roofing work, yard work, parking lot work, plumbing work, and septic tank burying continued to be added, it cost more than 30 million won. My father and the whole family did a lot of repairs themselves, so we saved a lot of money.”
Every corner of the house had traces of ‘handmade’ repairs. The sky blue tiles on the inner wall of the swimming pool/open-air bath in the yard were uneven enough to show that they were directly attached, but they were nice. Even though the main building is small, the floor height is high and there are rafters, so it was not stuffy to see.
It was not easy to save the rafters on the ceiling of the old house where ocher was applied to the rice sheaf, but the large hole was filled with a mixture of ocher and fiber. From a closed store to a cheaply bought chandelier, the old ceiling has become quite plausible. In particular, the furniture left by her grandmother, the former landlord, was not thrown away, but was cleaned and arranged by hand, adding to the taste of the house.
■ Romance: A yard where you can play in the water, an old record player, an astronomical telescope
“I asked the children who put their house up for sale if they could use the furniture, and they said, ‘Young people don’t buy new things, they use them.’”
The record player left behind by her grandmother, the owner of the house, felt like a treasure to him, who loved her music. As a side job, I have been a ‘music creator’ for a long time, and in the 1990s and 2000s, singers’ cassette tapes and pop song LPs) I had collected quite a few plates. People who come to stay at Sangju Hanok often listened to music through this repaired record player. Unlike city nights, the stars are visible at night in the countryside, so it was good to enjoy it with a small astronomical telescope placed on the side of the house.
The dresser left by her grandmother was saved by cutting out only one drawer at the bottom. A teacup, cassette tape, and LP board were placed on the cabinet, so they matched well. When her grandmother raised her children, she arranged for her to study. She did not throw away a small wooden desk and chair and put them in one corner of her room. She didn’t know her, but she didn’t want to throw away the memory of her raising her children.
A friendly house calls people. My friends who live in the city like this house and come to meet more than four times a year. On a summer night, grill meat on the toenmaru in front of the main building and talk over a glass of beer. The water play area is also open when friends come holding hands with their children.
“My friends living in Seoul, Gyeonggi, and Daegu are staying overnight. I don’t have kids, but my friends have kids who are 8 or 10 years old. When the kids get water in the pool and play in the water, we grill meat and drink beer, then it’s a parental break. Also, since the pool is right in front, you can watch them play in the water. It’s really different from the city because there’s less heat island, so it’s cool around 7:30 in the evening.”
If barbecues and swimming pools are the charm of a country house in summer, the charm of a country house in winter is different. While repairing the house, he did not remove the firewood stove and kept it as it was. When the fire in the fireplace heats the Gudeuljang and heats the annex, the air above is cool but the floor is warm, which can’t be so pleasant. People sit next to the vegetable garden and enjoy ‘bulmeong’, and also eat sweet potatoes wrapped in silver foil, jjondeugi, and marshmallows.
■ Repair: Drainage, septic tank, toilet wall
“At first, there was soil in the yard, but it couldn’t drain, so when it rains, it’s muddy. It was a low-rise house. When my father saw it, he said, ‘If it rains a lot, there will be a flood.’ So, I personally hired ready-mixed concrete, poured cement, and pushed it with a wooden rolling pin. My father also did the plastering work for the drain hole.”
The process of making a toilet in a place where there is no modern toilet was not easy. Plumbing work was done and a 10-person septic tank was buried. At first, business operators waved their hands saying they would not do it. The reason was that it is not easy to find a way for water to escape if the house is lower than the ground in order to build it. Fortunately, at the end of the search, I found a business owner who had worked on a country house for more than 30 years in Sangju and completed the construction safely.
“There is something really important. There is a rice field behind our outbuilding. When I bought it, I bought it without knowing, but there was a water canal in the rice field behind the annex. Without that waterway, the bathroom construction could not have been possible. You can’t run water out of your house without permission. There are places where it is released and there are places where it is not. There is even paperwork, so we need to find a good business operator so that it doesn’t become illegal.”
The toilet was remodeled from a rice hull storage warehouse. It was a space that her grandmother, the former owner of the house, used to mix human excrement and rice husk to make compost when raising cows long ago. I made a foundation frame by fixing wooden boards and lumber around the crumbled old red clay bricks and pouring cement into the frame. Cement bricks were stacked, thick insulation was placed in the middle, and small bricks were piled up again to plaster the interior. I bought the lower part of the bathroom for 50,000 won at the carrot market and attached the tiles myself. Nothing was easy.
“I also grew up watching my grandmother’s house, so I had a romance for a country house. But I didn’t know it would be this hard. Not just repairs, but maintenance too. For example, weeds become overgrown after only one rain in summer. I picked them all last week, but they grew again. I have to pull weeds often, but I gave up in the end. Gardening is not an ordinary job. I left the tomatoes alone, but they grow on their own like that and the fruit falls off. I saw small frogs living there today, and there are so many bugs.”
■ Balpum Edition: Find real estate like a hole-in-the-wall shop.
Even if it’s not easy, if you dream of a country house, what should you start with?
“First of all, you have to sell a lot of footwork. There is no place you would like to go to. Then go to the real estate in that area. If it’s a tip at this time, I’ve been looking for real estate that looks like a very old, shabby corner store rather than neat and stylish real estate. It is a place where such a real estate has been there for more than 30 years and knows the local situation very well. Elderly people in old real estate cannot register for sale on the Internet, so they simply write down the property by hand and paste it on the wall. There are many houses in the countryside that are not listed on Naver.”
Mr. Suran also thought of going to Mungyeong, North Gyeongsang Province, but the market price was too expensive. Even a house of 10 pyeong with a yard of 20 to 30 pyeong cost 60 to 70 million won. The current house is a little over 70 pyeong, the main building is 10 pyeong, and the annex is 7 pyeong, so it was very cheap compared to this.
“Usually, the market price of a remodeled country house with a yard of 30 pyeong is 120 million won. It took a lot of effort to fix it, but I bought it cheaply. If you drive, it takes 15 minutes to Sangju E-Mart. I thought the location was good because it was 15 minutes from downtown Sangju and 15 minutes from downtown Mungyeong. When I get older, I have to think about hospitals, and since I like to travel, I also thought about the distance from the airport. I liked this place in many ways.”
In particular, you need to understand the atmosphere of the neighborhood where you will be moving. During the construction, I visited the village hall and got to know the rural village by saying hello to the head of the village.
“Since the construction period was long, I formally greeted the elders in the neighborhood in October of last year. Before we came, a man in his 60s was the youngest in the village. I prepared snacks for the elderly, such as chocolate pie, rice cakes, soft drinks, and beer, but 20 or 30 people gathered and ate them all while talking. They say that they cook every day at the village hall. The relationship between the city and the neighborhood is completely different.”
In the city, there was a lot of money shed by eating and drinking on the street on her commute, but that changed when she came to the countryside. Thanks to the generosity of the countryside, the worry스포츠토토 about food has been relieved.
“Since I’m moving, please keep bringing me something to eat. Give me pumpkins, and peppers, corn, and lettuce. Some even brought a bag of rice. Then I have nothing to give you, so when I go on a trip, I buy foreign sweets for you to taste.”
■ A life free from home.
I started working in my early twenties and ended at the age of 32. He had three jobs, all different. He worked for more than 5 years at an information technology ( IT ) company that runs a large Internet shopping mall , and when he worked at a financial company, he paid off his parents’ debts with a good income. When he changed his job as a hospital coordinator for ‘War Life’, he discovered a gynecological disease during a medical examination and underwent a major operation. He gave up his life as a city office worker due to poor health.
Now, I make money by receiving Airbnb guests about twice a week in the annex of Sangju Hanok. The ‘music creator’ job, which he has been doing as a hobby since he was young, is not a big deal, but it helps him live. Still, he can sometimes enjoy the rural scenery at a new cafe in Sangju, and buy food for stray cats.
This year, he has been out of his office life for 9 years. Now, there are many times when I spend my daily life staying abroad for a month or two without being tied to my home. It is not a trip to enjoy an expensive meal and a hotel at a resort, but it is a way to wake up late in a mountainous area in Southeast Asia, sit at an open-air cafe, watch people passing by, and buy porridge while walking down the street.
“I have no children. But my friends with children say that they have no choice but to live in the city because of education. They say that traveling while raising children is not easy. But the last time I was surprised, a man from Germany was traveling with a newborn baby in front of him, holding hands with children who looked to be about 3 or 6 years old and carrying a camping bag. I’ve been on a trip with my 6-year-old nephew, and I think children become more sophisticated when they go abroad than I thought. It will be difficult at first, but anyone can do it if you start from a close place.”
Mr. Suran carefully took care of the country house, but he lives a ‘life that is not tied to the house’. She does not have a comfortable life because she has a cute country house, but a life that is ‘not tied down’. He emphasized that such a life is not special, that “anyone can do it.”