Gamcheon Culture Village

Posted on Jul 06, 2012
On a recommendation from another traveller staying at SUM guest house in Nampo, Nicole and I recently explored Gamcheon Culture Village. It turned out to be a great way to spend a morning in Busan, South Korea.

We found it hard to look up directions, so once again we sought the advice of the hostel staff (thanks Jay!). If you're planning to go, these directions should work for you: Take the subway to Tosung Station and use exit number 6. Look for Bus 1-1, 2 or 2-1 (the bus stop is around the corner, a little ways up the hill). Get off at Gamcheon primary school and walk down the road opposite the school.

Actually, the bus was one of the highlights for us. It's a short bus, and it only takes a minute to realize why. As it winds up the hill, the switchbacks get tighter and tighter, and soon the road is much too narrow for a full size bus to fit.

When we arrived in Gamcheon, we wandered around cluelessly for a while, until a local person took pity on us and guided us back to the starting point of a suggested walking route. The small shop that serves as the starting point (above) isn't particularly easy to find, as it is set down from the road and has only Korean signs, but it is worth finding. The shopkeeper sells a sort of scavenger hunt map for 1000 Won (~$1), which guides you along a nice walking route, and if you collect a stamp from each of 6 locations, you earn two free postcards (a great deal, in my humble opinion).

Built on a rather large and steep hill, Gamcheon was originally a refugee camp during the Korean war. The area changed gradually over the years; from shacks connected by muddy alleys, to the present collection of colourful (if small) houses mostly made of concrete.

In 2009, the city commissioned several artists to create exhibits in spaces around the village, and they now define the route. The art was rather "modern" for my liking, but it was interesting nonetheless. Certainly the highlight for us was picking our way through the narrow alleys, and the small glimpses of life in Gamcheon we saw along the way.

I think it would be quite easy to get lost in Gamcheon, if it wasn't for the painted fish arrows lining the path. They were added recently, and we heard a rumour that it was in response to complaints from locals about the sudden increase in random tourists wandering into their driveway or yard, trying to find their way out.

The tour ends at another small shop (just up the hill from the beginning) where you can exchange your stamps for postcards. Above the shop is a nice lookout point where you can get a decent view of the village, although I personally preferred the view from Gamcheon school, near where the bus dropped us off. The lookout was a great place to take a break though, and of course we made some new Korean friends who wanted their pictures taken with us (we're celebrities here, don't you know?).

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