The Stunning Gamcheon Village in Busan, South Korea
Busan’s Gamcheon Culture Village (부산 감천문화마을) has got to be one of the most incredible sights in all of South Korea. It’s vibrant beauty and history was breathtaking, I couldn’t be more impressed. I had wanted to visit Gamcheon because I’ve always seen the fantastic photos taken there, but the beauty is made even more impressive by its dynamic history.
During the Korean War in the early 1950s, Busan was the only part of the country that was outside of the war zone. Because of this, many people all over South Korea fled to this area for safety. Thousands of people poured into these little port areas and quickly built up small villages like Gamcheon Village. For decades, Gamcheon was a very poor area and considered a dangerous slum. It wasn’t until 2009 that the government decided to hire artists to rejuvenate the village and try to change this impoverished, old slum into an enchanting piece of art. Even though it is now a popular tourist spot, you can sense all the history around you and imagine how different these buildings and alleys once stood in the preceding decades.
When we arrived in Busan, we took the subway to Toseong station. As soon as we exited the station, we could immediately look up the mountain and see the colorful village above us. We walked a block up the street and jumped on one of the small buses that was headed to the peak of the mountain. This bus we got on was super old, tiny, and completely packed with people. The little bus crawled up the steep, narrow streets for about 10 minutes before reaching the top. I have to say, it was a bit of a nerve-wracking ride. The old bus was going way too fast, and I was scared there was going to be a collision on multiple occasions.
Once we reached the top, we were dropped off right next to an amazing lookout over the village. We took some pictures from there and then headed to the information center to get a map. The map had a route layed out for us along the main alleys that were scattered with little mini-museums, souvenir shops, street food, and vista points. We bought some flower tea at a gift shop, ordered some street food, and admired all the murals and lookouts over the city.
My favorite picture from the day is the picture of the “Busanfornia” sticker with Gamcheon Village in the background. I have often heard that Busan is the California of Korea because of the warmer weather, the beach town vibes, and the layout of the architecture. I definitely would have to agree with this comparison, and I felt very much like I was back in California. It was much warmer than my own city of Jeonju, and many parts of the city reminded me of San Francisco or San Diego.
Gamcheon Village, as well as the rest of Busan, was absolutely stunning. I already miss it and can’t wait for my next visit!