Secrets of Ulsan – Sinwha Art Village


An article published in the Korea Times last week caught our attention – it was about a mural village in Ulsan, named Sinwha Art Village.  According to the article, the village was formed in the 1960s for emigrants and named to reflect “the sentiments of the original inhabitants to signify their will to harmonize and live well.”  Traditionally a residential area for those in the whaling trade it somehow made a transition to a mural village when chosen as a location for filming a movie named “The Bicycle Looking for a Whale” and was also selected as the spot for the 2010 Maeul-Misul Project by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.  The village then began its transformation into a predominantly whale themed art gallery.

Not only had we never heard of it, we had no idea where it really was (other than in Ulsan, which is quite a large city!) but thought that would provide an interesting outing for a lazy Sunday.

Referring to our old friend Google, we fed in the bits of information we had, i.e. the name of the village, and promptly got nothing.  We checked through all the ‘Visit Korea’ and local Ulsan websites and still nothing.  The only glimmer of hope we had was via a small flag on Google maps, directing us to approximately the right area.  Determined, we made note of Google maps advice, ripped the page from the newspaper and set off on our adventure.

Arriving in Ulsan, we decided the best thing to do was hop off the bus and head for a taxi waving the pictures gleefully in front of the driver in the hope that he would immediately recognise the area and whisk us away to our destination.  It almost happened like this – save about half an hour of to-ing and fro-ing and translating into hangul – and off we went…

And what we found far exceeded our expectations.  Its a real, living, breathing village with folk going about their daily lives as per usual.  The difference being, however, a handful of tourists walking around their front yards taking pictures of the incredible art lining the walls.

While whales definitely dominated, there was an extremely wide variety of subjects including some more famous pieces.

There were only a few other tourists wandering around the day we were there, all Korean.  We are at a loss to understand why in the past when we’ve asked Ulsan locals for suggested things to do they have suggested the Hyundai Factory and NOT somewhere like Sinwha Village.  As mentioned above, other than the newspaper article, its actually incredibly hard to find out any information about this place.  It doesn’t feature on any tourist guides, its not recommended as place to visit anywhere we could find, the internet doesn’t have anything to say about it and even a few locals we talked to seemed to have no idea the place existed.

One of the highlights of our sightseeing in Korea, this village is a surprising pocket of awesome tucked away in the hills of Ulsan.  The gorgeous streets are definitely worth a visit!

Categories: Art, Korea, Photos, TravelTags: , , , , , , , , , ,

23 comments

  1. Wonderful find…well worth the trouble. The murals really artistic!

  2. Wow, what a cool place! We recently found a neighborhood in Seoul like that–it’s so beautiful with all of the murals/street art, it makes me wonder why every community doesn’t encourage that kind of artistry! I wish we had known about that when we went to Ulsan.

    • Was that the neighbourhood you visited where the Blue House is? That looked like an amazing place! The article we read in the Korea Times mentioned two further villages to check out – Gaemi Maeul in Seoul (not sure if that’s the same place you went?) and Dongpirang Village in Tongyeong of South Gyeongsang Province. An art (and maybe cafe) tour of Korea might be in order…

  3. I’m so sorry to hear that you couldn’t fine any info about ‘Sinwha Art village’! There are so many but, all are written in Korean, so maybe that’s why you didn’t get any of them… I’ve heard about it but, never been there! It looks fantastic! I should go one day! Thank you for sharing! I feel like I’m foreigner now 😉 ! you know more than I do! I found other posts! You can see more people’s arts! I hope you enjoy them!
    http://katdog.tistory.com/entry/%EC%9D%B4%EB%A0%87%EA%B2%8C-%EC%98%88%EC%81%9C-%EB%A7%88%EC%9D%84%EC%9D%80-%EC%B2 %98%EC%9D%8C%EC%9D%B4%EC%95%BC-%EC%9A%B8%EC%82%B0-%EC%8B%A0%ED%99%94%EB%A7%88%EC%9D%84-%EA%B5%AC%EC%84%9D%EA%B5%AC%EC%84%9D-%ED%83%90%EB%B0%A9%EA%B8%B0 ,
    http://rubygarden.tistory.com/entry/%EC%8B%A0%ED%99%94%EB%A7%88%EC%9D%84

    • Thanks so much for your comment and the recommended sites! Very cool.

      Part of the adventure was the fun of finding the place ourselves but its still very surprising that there is not more about it on any of the Korean tourism sites – its something we would definitely recommend to visitors. We’re even telling Korean people we know about it as a lot of locals have never been there or heard of it either. I guess we’re doing our bit for Korean tourism! Haha.

  4. What a cool find, guys!

  5. Gorgeous!!! One of my co-Ts keeps saying she wants to take me there but so far we haven’t been able to make it work. Now that I’ve seen what it looks like, I really want to go! 😀

  6. i like the adventurous expatriate ready-for-anything-silly vibe of your blog–nice job.

  7. Wow guys! One day it’s extreme sandcastles & the next it’s amazing street art, Andy Warhol & Korean girls skipping down the lane with giant Wales and faux window shutters!

    It all looks so incredible and the villagers certainly take care. It reminds me of the kind of place Banksy might show up and leave a million dollar doodle on its walls, ha ha!

    • Korea is certainly providing us with some interesting and unexpected things to see and do! We’ve heard that there’s a couple more villages like this one in Korea so we’re keen to check ’em out and see what else we can spy…

  8. I went to a village like that in Italy but the theme was butterflies instead of whales, and in fact, that was the only subject matter, no non-butterfly artwork.

  9. What a fabulous find… even if a challenge. At least you didn’t have to queue to take photos 🙂

  10. Absolutely amazing, what a wonderful place, you never never know until you just go! Cheers Sue

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