For those who like culture mixed with local history, the cultural village of Gamcheon, located in Busan, is a key tourist spot to be visited by foreigners and Koreans alike. The alleys that run through this community are vibrantly decorated with murals and sculptures created by locals.
The Gamcheon Culture Village is made up of houses built on a staircase at the base of a coastal mountain. It has earned the nickname “Machu Picchu of Busan” because of the intense cultural diversity located in a small mountainous region.
Gamcheon Village was once a run-down neighborhood that sheltered refugees after the Korean War. The neighborhood had about 30,000 inhabitants, but over time, the number dropped to 8,000. They also had an aging population. Many of the houses were abandoned, which, together with the lack of basic infrastructures such as piped water and sewerage systems, gave the place a degraded appearance. It was in danger of disappearing over time.
However, a cultural change project started in 2009 through the government’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism. The project encouraged street art in the alleys and along steps to attract tourists. To carry out this process of urban renewal, a Council of Residents was created to promote the quality of life in the village and find solutions to the problems that arose. Residents organized themselves into different groups, some working on house repairs, others on opening local businesses. Many also promoted the village and cleaned the streets.
As the government came in with retaining walls, water, and sewer networks, they also began paving the streets and making parking lots. Local artists and residents began repairing the homes of low-income seniors, as well as renovating abandoned homes to give them new community use. New museums and art galleries began popping up.
Not only did the project fuel investment in infrastructure and a new culture, but it encouraged local commerce and improved the lives of residents. There was the opening of businesses such as shops, cafes, restaurants, galleries, craft workshops, and hotels. In addition, there was the distribution of food, organization of parties and events, etc.
To improve the residents’ capacity and self-management, courses were offered in various areas, such as business management and craftsmanship. Volunteers were also trained to be tour guides and stimulate children’s curiosity and creativity in this unique space through the “Growing through Art” initiative. As of 2009, the village has risen from the ashes and is now an extremely important tourist spot.
The Deungdae (감천 등대 포토존) is a specific photo spot, which is a panel set up for beautiful photos. There are invisible statues that are made with pictures of the neighborhood, camouflaging themselves in the landscape.
There are murals scattered all over the place, whether referring to Korean history and tradition or foreign literature and art. In particular, for lovers of French children’s literature, there is a famous sculpture of the Little Prince, which overlooks the village. Overall, the appreciation of books and the cult of study is very present in the works of art you’ll find here.
By having something new hidden in each alley, it becomes difficult to define which are the best attractions to see. The best thing is to jump into the explorer experience and head aimlessly through Gamcheon.
The Small Museum of Gamcheon illustrates the neighborhood’s vibrant past by displaying over 70 antique household items donated by locals. In addition, visitors can also see replicas of former dwellings and learn more about Gamcheon’s artistic transformation through the cooperation of residents, artists and local authorities.
I hope you have the Gamcheon experience, and if you have the chance to go to Busan, don’t miss this village.
Gamcheon Culture Village (감천문화마을) Address: 203, Gamnae 2-ro, Saha-gu, Busan Korean address: 부산 사하구 감내2로 203 Operating Hours: N/A
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