Located in the Saha community, Gamcheon 2-dong is a vibrant, quirky community that seamlessly melds history, art, and community. Gamcheon Village began as refugee quarters during the early years of the Korean War, when forces from the north pushed down as far as the Pusan Perimeter, near the southernmost tip of the Korean peninsula. Busan found its city streets flooded with war-traumatized refugees, and the lack of food and sanitary conditions became a huge issue for the duration of the war. With limited space for housing, the resident of Gamcheon Village built a terraced shantytown right into the mountainside. In recent years, the once indigent neighborhood has been revitalized. Houses have been finished and covered with coats of bright paint. Additionally, over the last several years, art installations have been added throughout the neighborhood, giving it a quirky, artsy vibe and making it a popular destination for tourists.
What was once a slum has become a hub of art and culture in Busan. While I wouldn’t necessarily go so far as others who have nicknamed the area “the Santorini of Asia” for its picturesque views, Gamcheon is sunny, colorful, and definitely worth seeing.
A word of two of advice to would-be visitors, however. While Gamcheon Village definitely actively recruits tourists (there’ s a map that you can buy and get stamped at locations all over the village), it is still a neighborhood that people live in, many of them since the area’s first settlement during the Korean War. It is also definitely not an affluent area of Korea, and residents are sensitive of tourists taking pictures that could portray the area as slummy or impoverished. Additionally, residents themselves are a little camera weary. You should ask before taking photos of people. Also, the area is still pretty traditional, even though it’s in Korea’s second largest city. Modest clothing is recommended, especially for foreigners. Finally, be prepared to do a lot of walking up and down hills. The neighborhood is comprised of a labyrinth of alleys and streets that meander up and down the hillside. Comfy shoes are a must.
Getting There: Orange Line subway to Toseong Station. Take Exit 8 and walk straight to the bus stop in front of Pusan Cancer Center. From there, take bus 2 or 2-2 up the hill. Get off at Gamcheon Elementary School. At the village’s entrance, you can buy a map for 2,000 won. I highly recommend doing this.