Living in Art | 走一趟“亚洲最美的村庄”

Busan, the famous port of Korea and known for the annual film festival, offers a range of hiking and beach activities and of course seafood feast!

None of the above am I writing about today.

I was introduced to Gamcheon Art Village during a social event, and decided to make this place one of my to-dos during my recent trip to Korea.

After checking into the backpackers, I set off in search of my “Korean Santorini”. Apparently there are many nicknames to this place such as  “Korea’s Machu Picchu” and “Lego Village”.

路很陡,却走得值得。

沿著山坡上的彩色小屋,呼唤着我。

它是釜山的马丘比丘,也是圣托里尼。

雨季到访釜山,难得晴朗的一个星期六下午,我终于到访了甘川洞文化村。

Top View

Due to the position of the village, it is virtually bathed in sunlight from sunrise to sunset. It was a pity that I visited in the monsoon season, and the sky was slightly overcast when I reached the village around 3pm.

I didn’t know where to start. Where’s the entrance?

Wall Mural 1

Technically speaking, the experience starts right from the moment you alight from the bus. Be surprised by the wall murals in the alleys; meet the Little Prince near the top of the village; walk along the alleys and wander into art project houses; take an imaginary sip of aromatic coffee at the Book Cafe.

甘川洞文化村以山而建,楼梯与斜坡特多,要逛要拍照,就记得要穿舒服的鞋子。

你们可以看着小鱼儿指示木牌上的箭头,跟着它走寻找目标,就不会迷路。

爱拍照的朋友们可乐了。这是个充满童话色彩的地方,每转角就会有新发现。

无论是壁画、山顶的小王子、沿路的小鱼儿指示木牌,还是站在遥望台俯瞰文化村与远处大海的美景,每一物一景都是明信片的风景。

喜爱人气娱乐节目《RunningMan》的朋友,应该也知道此节目也曾到这人气景点取景。

Peep

Tree of Hope 1
Tree of Hope || so where’s the tree?

Tree of Hope 2
Look to the right. Tada! :)

Photo with wolf mural
Drama queen in the house

IMG_9782
Mehhhhhh.

IMG_9769

IMG_9770
A pretty tiny cafe

According to my friend, the Gamcheon Art Village is visited by mostly locals (for now), and indeed, even the area map (which comes with a free postcard) is in Korean, no hooray for folks like me who can’t read a single word :p

The pictures of the various art projects, paintings as well as the awesome arrows helped a lot.

Arrows 1

IMG_9725

Fish Wall
The huge fish wall feature that you can’t miss.

2012年在日本UN-Habitat福冈本部举行的”2012年亚洲都市景观奖”上被评为亚洲最美村庄的甘川洞文化村, 拥有超过六十年的历史。

它曾是50年代韩国战争以后的难民居住所,4000多人居住在800多栋临时搭起的房子。那现在,这些屋子没人住嘛?

和当地的导游以简单的英语聊了聊,原来近年年轻一代都渐渐搬离这里到釜山市区,而原本居住在此的老居民去世后,家人也把屋子卖了。政府机构也就把空屋买下,转为景点发展用途。

2009年,在保存村庄原貌的基础上,邀请了村民与艺术家参与美化工程,将甘川洞文化村变成了充满艺术气息的景点。

2012年,第二项以迷宫为主题的工程,为甘川洞文化村增添了更多主题小屋,发展成可以体验、享受的村子。

由于现在仍有居民居住于此处,甘川洞文化村开放时间从早上9时到傍晚6时,参观时尽量不要喧嚷,避免打扰居民。

A little sensitivity goes a long way

While the ramshackle alleyways and charming old-style homes are favored by visitors, the overwhelming influx of crowd especially during weekends and holidays has not been particularly welcomed by the locals. Please be mindful when you walk around and should you want to snap a picture that happens to capture the locals, please ask their permission before you do so.

How to get there:
Take the Busan subway Line 1 to Toseong Station, come out from exit 6 and turn right. Walk straight and you will see a hospital on your right. The bus stop is right in from of the hospital, take either mini bus 2 or 2-2. Alight at the top of the village, near a colorful elementary school. (I often have this question cause most directions end when you board the final leg of the journey, but I guess you can follow the crowd, and alight with the majority if you are going to a touristy place).

History (From Busanhaps.com)

Gamcheon has long been home to the city’s poorest residents. In the 1940s, only 20 or so houses dotted the hillside, but that number swelled dramatically at the beginning of the Korean War in 1950. War refugees fled their homes for the relative safety of Busan, the only area of the peninsula that remained free from fighting. Within a year, Busan’s population grew from 880,000 to 1.4 million people, and a half million homeless refugees needed a place to live–and fast. Approximately 4,000 people moved from the crowded port areas surrounding the Jagalchi Fish Market to nearby Gamcheon, erecting some 800 makeshift homes using scrap iron, wood and rocks.

Those shanty homes were built up into the brick-and-concrete Lego-like houses that you see today partially thanks to a man named Chol-je Cho. Cho founded Taegukdo, a religion that believes that the Taeguk, or yin and yang symbol, represents the true meaning of life and the universe. Practicing again after persecution and suppression during the Japanese occupation, Cho and his followers converted nearly 90 percent of the refugees living in Gamcheon with their gifts of rice and candy. With this help, residents were then able to funnel their earnings into rebuilding, and in 1955 the area became known as the Taeguk Village when Cho moved the religion’s headquarters there.

Although better established by the 1990s, Gamcheon and the Taeguk Village remained poorer than the rest of Busan, which busied itself by erecting skyscrapers and high-rises. In 2009, the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism stepped in with the Dreaming of Machu Picchu in Busan project. Reparations were made, artists were hired to paint murals and 10 artworks were installed, some created with the assistance of the residents.

In 2010 the follow-up Miro Miro project saw the addition of 12 more works, including alley paintings and path markers perfectly suited to the project as miro means “maze” in Korean. These days, visitors can see trick art, sculpture, and even rooms or buildings remodeled around a singular art concept, such as the Book Cafe shaped like a giant coffee mug, or rooms interpreting themes such as “peace” or “darkness”.

2012
The village was one of eight areas in the Asia region selected to receive the 2012 UN-HABITAT Asian Townscape Awards.

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