Gamcheon Culture Village
여행 정보 요약

The Machu Picchu of Busan born again

Gamcheon Culture Village

Since the opening of its port to overseas trade in 1876, trade and industry grew very rapidly along with modernization of Busan, the largest port city in Korea, and the population of the city increased greatly as people from neighboring regions flocked in to find work. However, on the other side of such development was a dark shadow of increased urban poverty caused by job insecurities. Due to its geographical characteristics of being a long and narrow territory between mountains and the sea, it was difficult for the poor to find houses on flat land. Most locals were day laborers who lived in temporary shelters made of scraps or tents on the hillsides close to markets and ports so they could find work.


The hilltop villages of Busan began in this way and expanded even more with the outbreak of the Korean War (1950–1953). Many of the people who had to flee their war-torn hometowns swarmed to Busan. However, with no money and not a single relative or acquaintance in Busan, the refugees settled down on unoccupied hillsides building shacks using tin plates and planks discarded by the US army.

The hillsides of Gamcheon-dong were among them with shacks built along the hill. Latecomers had to go up higher naturally forming a terraced community. Going through the 1970s and 80s, the shacks were renovated replacing planks with concrete block walls and tin roofs and then again replacing tin roofs with slabs. During the renovation process, residents were considerate of each other. Houses in the front made sure not to block the houses in the back so that they got enough sunlight, and houses in the lower levels shared their rooftops share could hang their laundry on sunny days, grow vegetables to eat, and children could play.


However, in the 1990s, the young people born and raised in Gamcheon-dong left the village in search of a better environment and jobs, and employees of the shoe factory in the nearby industrial complex also left the village as the factory relocated overseas. As a result, Gamcheon-dong Village declined drastically with the population dropping from 29,000 in 1992 to 10,000 in 2011. The number of empty and abandoned houses increased and the old village was slowly dying out.

“Houses in the front made sure not to block the houses in the back so that they got enough sunlight, and houses in the lower levels shared their rooftops with the upper level houses so they could hang their laundry on sunny days, grow vegetables to eat, and children could play.”

Finally in 2009, a seed of change began to sprout in the village. Local artists who were saddened to see the village disappear along with its memories and long history, got together for the “Dreaming Machu Picchu of Busan” project and “Miro Miro Alley” project.

Drawings and murals that emphasized special features and characteristics of the village were painted on old buildings and alleys breathing life back into Gamcheon-dong. The colorful houses and beautiful painting of the terraced hillside village caught the attention of young travelers and they began posting their experiences on social media. Soon, the village became a must-visit place among photographers and architecture students. 

The Busan City Government also pitched in by improving public toilets, installing railings along the alleys, and purchasing empty houses to transform them into galleries and parks under the Living Environment Improvement project.  

The village became pleasant again and the lives of its residents improved greatly. The declining population also made a turn and began to slowly rise. The residents, encouraged by such changes, formed the Gamcheon Culture Village Residents Council and gradually completed the Gamcheon Culture Village. The Residents Council worked with local artists to develop various cultural contents, such as village festivals, cultural performances, village tours and experience programs, as well as developing tour souvenirs and providing work spaces for artists.

Such efforts brought enormous results. The number of visitors to the village increased from 25,000 in 2011 to 3.08 million in 2019. And seeing that more than 60% of visitors are international toursits, it shows that Gamcheon Culture Village has attracted a great deal of attention from overseas as an exemplary case of urban renewal. In fact, the village was introduced in various foreign media and broadcasting agencies, such as Le Monde, CNN and Al Jazeera, and was visited by many famous people including a world-renowned photographer, the Secretary General of Slow City, and the president of the Asia Townscape Design Society. 


A declining hillside village was revitalized by adding a touch of culture and art to memories of the past. Villagers, local artists and the local government joined hands to revive Gamcheon Culture Village, which stands as a vibrant example of successful urban renewal.

TIP:  Visitors can participate and experience the various arts and craft activities and programs offered by local artists.

Address 203 Gamnae 2-ro, Saha-gu, Busan

Tel 051-204-1444

Time 09:00a.m. - 17:00p.m.
➞  3-minute taxi from Toseong Station, Busan Subway Line 1

Nearby tourist attractions

Dadaepo Beach Park


Songdo Yonggung Suspension Bridge

Amisan Observatory


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