On the brink of demolition to a tourism hot spot: residents and students led urban revitalisation

Dongpirang Murals Village

date 2007

Dongpirang village was an area full of worn out houses on narrow old alleyways, where during the Japanese invasion, the working class have accommodated. Furthermore, it is historically significant due to its geographical placement. Since Dongpirang is situated on a steep ‘cliff’ of Tongyeong, on the south coast of Korea, during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897), Yi Sun-Sin commander used it as an observation point to see naval attacks from Japan.

However, on 2007, there was a move by the government to demolish all the housing estates in this village to remake and enlarge the naval observation point, in order to create tourism. At this point, most of the residents were poor elder population, who, if displaced, would not be able to afford housings in other areas of the city.

Hearing this demolition/eviction process, Tongyeong citizens and students who called themselves “Tongyeong Agenda 21” raised a national mural contest on October 2007 to help save the residents’ homes. This intervention was a huge success. Lead by the local community and university students, the newly painted walls have not only preserved the area itself, thus saving the residents, but also have made Dongpirang village a tourist hot spot. Dongpirang village is still one of the most popular attractions in Korea, and since, it has been used as a prime example to revitalise excluded villages around Korea. For instance, the Heng-goon Dong village in 2010 and the Ant Village in 2009.

One of the strongest benefits of this bottom-up intervention is that the cost is low, as the only supplies are paints and brushes. Also, it is a short time project that can be completed in only a day or two, depending on the size of the village. Moreover, since the project is launched through national mural contest, the advertisement aspect is incorporated within, helping it to gain popularity and tourism fast.