Ehwa Mural Village Current Status
Seoul Mural Village : Ehwa Mural Village struggles with tourists
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Today, I want to introduce a mural village in Seoul where you can visit easier than the mural cities in Busan or Jeonju. Ehwa Mural Village is located near Hyehwa station which is at the center of Seoul. The traffic is relatively convenient and many people traveling Seoul will visit this place at afternoon for beautiful photos.
However, is Ehwa Mural Village still crowded and beautiful as it once was?
Actually, you can see from the title of this blog that the local local residents have voiced their complaints. During your stay in Seoul, if you are visiting Ewha Mural Village, see for yourself the situation of the local residents. Does sightseeing cause troubles for the residents?
Ehwa Mural Village：Introduction
Ehwa Mural Village is located near the Hyehwa station, on the Seoul Metro Line 4. The name "Ehwa" has nothing to do with the "Ehwa Woman's University".
In the era of Josun Dynasty, the eastern part of Seoul was called Sungshinbang (숭신방), which consists of Ssanggye-dong, Ehwa-jeongdong, and Jangseng-jeongdong.
After the Japanese colonization the place got its name as Ehwa-dong.
Ehwa Mural Village：Success
In year 2006, Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism cooperated with artists to transform the deserted areas, and this project was called 「Art in the City 2006」.
Among them was the Hyeahwa Ehwa-dong near the Naksan Park went under the project name "Naksan Project". Many cultural and artistic workers came here to paint the broken, old walls for the residents, presenting a whole new visual landscape for the local residents.
This was a seed of hope for local residents. There were many examples for cultural transformation in Korea, which has brought up the local tourism industry with improved local appearance.
Because of the beautiful murals Ewha has become a beautiful tourist site. It was a successful enough to become the filming sight for the 《Guardian : The lonely and Great God》,《A Girl Who Sees Smells 》,《She was pretty》and so on. More and more tourists visited after this dramas have aired.
Ehwa Mural Village is the home for many famous mural artworks in Korea. For example the "Flower Staircases" and the "Fish Staircases" are the two famous murals here.
Ehwa Mural Village：Decline
About four or five years ago the voice of complaints from residents began to spread.
Everyday a large number of tourists filled the Ehwa Village. Problems such as noise, garbage and invasion of privacy have emerged. Residents repeatedly protested to protect their living environment, which were not very effective. Few years later more intense means of resistance have appeared in the village.
Overnight, the beautiful mural which was once "Flower Staircase" was erased. Although the Seoul Government arrested five people involved in the case of damage of cultural property, this incident began to have follow-up effect. Many murals loved by the tourists were also damaged and erased. Korean society then began to talk whether the sudden fame was good or harmful to the local residents.
This picture shows the alley that once led to the Flower Staircases but you can see that it's gone now.
More intense means have emerged, and some residents painted their walls with red paints to express their disgust. They say such things like that they want "a quite rest" and "live like a human".
In addition, we have to mention that the business model never actually helped the local resident.s Because of the traffic accessibility of Ewha Village, visitors come here only for sightseeing and not spend any money here.
Even if they make a purchase here, it will not return to the original residents but the young merchants and cafes which has newly emerged.
The renovation of Ehwa Mural Village once brought good times here, and made this place famous overseas. But over time, the locals were abandoned from this festival.
Ehwa Mural Village：Status
At noon on weekdays, there are very few people, and you can't find much tourists on the street. Some classic murals have been erased and only few remains. I went around to find them.
This article was written in the hope that everyone can appreciate the lives of the local residents. That is why this blog is not filled with beautiful photos. I wanted to introduce the struggles on the other side of the success that government enjoyed from its so called "projects" .
After exiting from the Hyehwa station I followed the Naksan park road. After you walk up the hills for a while you can see these installation art works.
Moving further into the village, unlike what I've imagined there weren't many tourists here. Instead it looked like a resident area. Occasionally some murals stood out to show that this was once a famous tourist site.
You can see the remnants of the once beautiful place this was. Whether erased or overwritten with paints, the original beautiful mural village now looked rusty and old. Even so, some surviving murals still attracts tourists to take pictures.
The once famous staircases are not so beautiful anymore. However some murals on the main road have still survived. And on the slopes some cafes and shops are still open. But what caught my eyes the most were the red paints showing the agony of the locals.
For the locals a large number of tourists did not help their lives very much, but brought only pain and trouble. The original quiet life was completely destroyed.
Ehwa Mural Village：Future
The original place was quiet place with beautiful atmosphere. Even though not so developed it was home for them.
However the so-called "renovation" turned this place into a glamorous tourist site. The price paid were the trashes in the streets, noises all day, and the breach of privacy. What good is the renovation if the locals are in a horrible situation. It is of no meaning if the harmony of life is broken.
Did Ehwa Village really need this makeover? Or did Seoul just wanted to change this place, since it is the center of Seoul. Did they want to turn this place into another Gamcheon Village in Busan?
From the Ehwa Mural Village is not so far from the commercial streets of Jongno-gu.
I walked through the Ewha Village in person and saw the most authentic appearance and sounds of the city. I must tell you the truth and I wouldn't come here the next time.
It is not because the murals were gone but I wanted to protect the lives of the local people. Korean Tourism Organization didn't take the local lives into account. They had to negotiated with the actual people who live here. I hope the residents of the Ehwa village find peace and recover from its damage.
Dear friends, we will see you next time!