Ihwa-dong, one of Seoul’s oldest neighborhoods, was once a place of renown. Aristocrats would come visit to take in the splendid scenery. After the Korean War the village became home to squatting refugees, building homes wherever they could and in the late 1950s a National Housing Complex was built. Many of the residents worked in the nearby garment and textile industries but as other neighborhoods prospered in the 80’s and 90’s with high-rise apartment towers, residents started moving away draining the neighborhood’s vitality. Ihwa-dong became a decaying suburb designated for demolition, home to mostly poor families and the elderly.
In 2006 in an effort to bring people back and build a sense of community, the Ministry of Culture announced the “Ihwa-dong Naksan Project” which would feature paintings and art installations of about 70 artists, creating Ihwa Mural Village.
But the influx of tourists and their littering, noise and graffiti made long-term residents of the neighborhood wonder if the changes were for the better. About a year after the project began, they requested the removal of many of the murals, amounting to almost half the original art. In 2012 the Lock Museum started a public project called the “Village Revitalization Project” aiming to create a village museum where residents become owners, hoping to preserve values of the village beyond the murals. Celebrating its 6th year the Lock Museum is hosting a special exhibit titled “The Heart stays in Ihwa-dong” which was jointly prepared with local residents and shopkeepers extending the “museum” into the shops themselves.
A moon village, Ihwa-dong on its hilltop location offers a better view of the moon than the cities below.