Gamcheon Cultural Village, Busan

Gamcheon: The Artistic Side of Busan

A hillside labyrinth filled with vivid colorful houses, Gamcheon is a destination for travelers with an interest in art and history. The village has emerged from the dust of poverty to become one of Busan’s most unique attractions. Here and there, quirky murals and eccentric figures spring up, adding an artistic touch to a lesser-known part of the city.

Settled high on the hills of Saha-gu in central-west Busan, Gamcheon Culture Village (부산 감천문화마을) is probably not on the travel itinerary of many vacationers. This is not a place where you can idle on the beach nor a place where your appetite can be satisfied. Instead, this eerily quiet village has long been home to Busan’s poorest residents.

A Brief History of Gamcheon

Gamcheon began as a slum in the 1950s when the Korean War broke out. During this time, Busan was the only place in the peninsula that remained free from fighting, and thus it became the destination of an exodus.

Within a year, many parts of the city, such as the areas surrounding the Jagalchi Market, were turned into refugee camps. But these shelters were soon overcrowded, forcing many to go to nearby Gamcheon. Some 800 makeshift homes were erected, using scrap iron, wood, and rocks.

A typical house in Gamcheon

The houses of Gamcheon only got their today appearance thanks to an obscure religious community called Taeguk-do. As its name implied, members of this religion believe that the true meaning of life and the universe can be found through “great polarity”, or Taeguk (yin and yang symbol). They did not only help to refurbish the shabby houses but their philosophy of “allowing others to prosper” was also integrated into the town’s architectural layout. Following this teaching, the houses are built in staircase fashion so that no house blocks any house behind it, creating an extraordinary urban landscape.

The architectural layout of Gamcheon village
No house should be left behind!

The New Appearance

Although better established by the 1990s, Gamcheon remained poorer than the rest of Busan, which busied itself by erecting skyscrapers and high-rises. Things only started changing in 2009 when the government initiated the project “Dreaming of Machu Picchu in Busan”, bringing an artistic vibe into the village.

The once-murky neighborhood was brightened up with joyful colors, quirky murals, and eccentric sculptures. Some of these artworks were even created by Gamcheon residents. From a mountainside slum, Gamcheon has been transformed into an outdoor gallery that any art enthusiast can surely enjoy.

Tips for visiting Gamcheon Cultural Village

  • Gamcheon Cultural Village is accessible by subway and bus. From the city center, take Metro line 1 to Goejeong Station (Exit 6). Then take the bus Sakha 1 or 1-1 to Gamcheon Elementary School.
  • It’s impossible not to get lost in this maze-like village, thus a map (₩ 2000) is highly recommended. Alternatively, you can follow the “fishes” which will lead you through all the village’s main attractions.
  • Comfortable shoes are required to explore the steep streets of Gamcheon.
  • Similar to Hallstatt or Burano, the locals are still living in Gamcheon and you shouldn’t do anything that might disturb their daily life, for example, making noise or photographing inside their houses.


22 thoughts on “Gamcheon: The Artistic Side of Busan”

  1. mydustyflipflops – I'm a forty-something, travel loving technophobe! I have a full-time job but enjoy getting out to explore the world when I can. Hope you enjoy some of the tales of my adventures! Search for:
    mydustyflipflops says:

    What an interesting place!

    1. Nhưng mà chắc điều kiện của cư dân sống trong mấy căn nhà kiểu này ở San Francisco chắc rất khác ở Busan cô nhỉ 🙂

  2. That looks amazing! Can’t wait to visit someday 😀

  3. Bama – Jakarta, Indonesia – Based in Jakarta, always curious about the world, always fascinated by ancient temples, easily pleased by food.
    Bama says:

    It’s always encouraging to read stories like this. In my own hometown, not far from my parents’ old house there’s a village which was once poor and gloomy but has now turned into a colorful part of the city. It’s perched on a hill so from afar people can see the vibrant colors of the houses.

    1. That sounds really nice! Some people argue that those villages are merely tourist traps. But I think it’s a creative way to draw visitors, and thus the much-needed money.

  4. Around the world with 80 plates... – Hey! I’m Emma. A self-proclaimed film nerd, food critic and avid traveller. Welcome to my life! The blog name “Around the World with 80 Plates” was thought up by my very punny cousin (shoutout: Bryony Walsh) and it describes exactly what this blog will be about: films, food and travel. Now strap yourself in and enjoy!
    Around the world with 80 plates... says:

    Love this post. Have been to Gamcheon numerous times but did not know the history behind it so thank you for educating me! 🙂

      1. Laleh Chini – Author of “Climbing Over Grit” - Winner of “Canada Book Award”-Member of Authors Without
        Laleh Chini says:

        My pleasure sweetheart.🌺

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