By Min Yea-Ji and Kim Hwaya
Photos & videos = Min Yea-Ji
Yeongju | April 11, 2019
A conventional Korean farming tool made by a blacksmith in a small provincial town in Korea is growingly popular on Amazon.com and has earned rave reviews.
The homi (hand plow) has received a lot of praise from satisfied customers with glowing testimonials on YouTube like “the best gardening tool ever.” Unlike a straight-shaped trowel common in the West, the homi can rake, dig and cover dirt on the ground.
So who is behind this amazing implement? He is Seok Noh-ki, who owns a blacksmith shop in the southeastern city of Yeongju, Gyeongsangbuk-do Province. Starting his career at age 14, he has worked 52 years in his trade.
While most blacksmith shops closed due to agricultural mechanization and the import of cheaper versions of homi from neighboring countries, Seok never gave up. He was even selected as his province’s top artisan last year.
Seok’s Amazon success started ten years ago. An acquaintance suggested that he sell homi online though the blacksmith was unfamiliar with the internet. His sales online were initially slow but occasional orders started coming in from the U.S. two or three years ago. Last year, he sold over 2,000 homi.
The blacksmith said the reason for his homi’s success is its quality concrete material. The tool is made of plate spring used in vehicles that is stronger than regular iron. The making of the blade, whose thickness varies from end to end, also requires expert skills.
And because Seok is a highly experienced blacksmith, he maintains a low defect rate. When the material is heated, he checks its color and starts to hit it. If the temperature is too high, the defect rate will increase; too low of a temperature makes it impossible to make a homi, thus a high degree of skill in the process is required.
On the heavy attention his small town has attracted due to his fame, Seok simply said, “I’ve polished my skills to survive.”
One of his fingers is crooked and cannot fully stretch, and years of clanging and heating up metal have taken their toll on his hands. Despite being in a rapidly declining profession, he insists on using his bare hands to work. His old-school approach toward his work has ultimately appealed to buyers who value quality.