And it’s back to Korea! Today I’ll be showing you around the picturesque Ihwa Mural Village (이화 벽화마을), located in Ihwa-dong.
In 2006, as part of the Naksan Project, approximately 60 artists were commissioned to paint walls and install artworks around the Ihwa neighborhood. As a result, the area was reborn as a tourist attraction – visitors can come admire the many galleries and small stores selling handmade items among the prettily adorned concrete walls.
The neighborhood boom was not without its controversies, however. Many residents, constantly disturbed and harassed by the noisy tourists (and the trash they leave behind), have protested against the Naksan Project by painting over landmarks with grey paint. Wandering around the neighborhood, angry red messages spray-painted onto walls were not uncommon either. I could understand why they would be protesting, though – many tourists were blatantly ignoring numerous signs posted asking them to respect private property and keep noise levels to a minimum.
In spite of the controversy, there were still many murals left untouched, thankfully. I do hope that in the future, tourists are more considerate of the people who make their homes here.
One store that I really enjoyed visiting was Suga M, located at the bottom of one of the many hills. A small leather-working store, the owner was very friendly as she talked us through all of her pieces. Her store had not been open for too long, but I hope that she gets a lot of visitors (and business) soon!
We passed by a small wooden bench under some pieces of dyed fabric. I’m not entirely sure what they were there for, but they were quite pretty all the same.
There were a number of tiny museums dotted throughout the Mural Village. It was a shame they weren’t advertised more clearly; the only reason we found out about them was because we accidentally stumbled into one. One of them was showcasing traditional Korean embroidery, used in traditional Korean weddings. I loved looking at the intricate details of the richly embroidered dresses and bed-covers.
We also stopped by a small cafe, occupied by two adorable Siamese kittens that I played with as I sipped my iced cappuccino.
Despite the sweltering hot weather, we had a lovely trip to Ihwa Mural Village. I hope that in the future, some sort of agreement is made between the residents and the tourist board, to ensure everybody benefits equally from the Naksan Project.