Gamcheon Cultural Village (감천문화마을)

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. Approximately 4,000 people moved from the crowded port areas surrounding the Jalgachi Fish Market to nearby Gamcheon, erecting some 800 makeshift homes using scrap iron, wood and rocks.

Although better established by the 1990s, Gamcheon Village remained poorer than the rest of Busan. In 2009, the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism stepped in. 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 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’.

In 2012, Gamcheon was awarded the UN-HABITAT Asian Townscape Award as well as a cultural excellence award from Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

# Information from Haps Magazine, 2013,

1. Getting there

1.1 Take the City Tour bus-Mandi History Tour.

You can take a day to explore Gamcheon Cultural Village, followed by Bosu-Dong and end up at Gukje Market for your dinner. The bus schedule below will be able to help you plane your route. You may want to check out my other post on Bosu Book Alley to find out more about the area.

2. Take Line 1 to Toseong Station (토성역) (Busan Subway Line 1), Exit 6.Take local bus Saha 1-1, Seogu 2 or Seogu 2-2 to Gamcheon Elementary School Bus Stop. (감천초등학교).

3. Take Line 1 to Goejeong Station (Busan Subway Line 1), Exit 6. - Take local bus Sakha 1 or Sakha 1-1 to Gamcheon Elementary School Bus Stop.

4. (Starting point is Busan train station, orange line, line. Find a bus stop from Exit 9, Busan train station. Take a bus "87". It takes about 35minutes. Get off at Yangsung supermarket(shop). Just next to the Yangsung supermarket, You can find the entrance of Gamcheon Cultural Village.

Recommended: If you are taking a bus, print out the Hangul name for Gamcheon Cultural Village and show it to the driver. Sit near the driver. Bus drivers in Korea are generally helpful and will help you alight at the right bus stop.

2. Area Information

Visitors can tour the village all year round but they should be quiet and keep order as the village is a residential area. The official opening hours are from 9 to 5.

Village Map:

The moment I stepped into the village, I was so thrilled, I let myself go free-spirited and simply followed the murals around the village. I totally forgot about picking up a visitor's map. I found a a version online which can give a better picture of just how large the village is and how much you can do there.

3. Moving around

I have added some dots to the visitor's map to mark out key areas. The single a single red dot indicates the entrance opposite the elementary school, while the double red dot indicates the key feature of the village: The Little Prince sculpture sitting at the highest point of the village and overlooking the village.

The best way to see the main attractions for photo moments is to walk along the main road.

Near the entrance of the village:

But if you are free-spirited like me, you may soon find yourself among the small alleys, led by the artworks, which I thought flows quite well across different clusters. This is the artwork which led me into the alleys:

But I wasn't disappointed. The detour led me to other intricate artworks and diverse expressions.

Meal options: There are a few cafes which sells pabingsu (shaved ice dessert). The menu is alright, it was nice, but it didn't wow me. I wouldn't recommend eating full course at the village. Jalgachi Market, which is not far from the village offers a lot more choices in terms of proper meal options.

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