A hamlet rich in history and art

Years ago, Yeongwol County was home to a thriving mining community. What draws visitors today are colorful wall paintings by area residents.

그림옷 입은 동네, 영월

June 01,2011
Moundong, which used to be a coal mining town 20 years ago, has transformed itself today into a small fairy-tale village, painted with colorful fairy-tale characters on its walls. By Kwon Hyeok-jae

Yeongwol, a small county in southern Gangwon, was once one of the most remote regions in the country. It is also at the center of several tragic episodes in Korean history.

During the Joseon Dynasty, when it was only possible to enter and leave the area by boat, King Danjong, dethroned in a coup led by his uncle Sejo, was exiled to Yeongwol and was later killed there at the age of 17.

Today the town, which houses the remains of both King Danjong and renowned Joseon Dynasty poet Kim Sat-gat, has emerged as one of the nation’s most interesting historic sites.

But what draws even more travelers to Yeongwol nowadays are unique neighborhoods that have become famous for wall paintings created by area residents.

Last week, the Joongang Ilbo set out to uncover what truly makes the area so popular among travelers.

The village head’s masterpiece

Until the 1960s and 80s, the mountains of Yeongwol County were rich with coal, which was the main source of income for area residents.

In the center of it all was Moundong Village. The tiny hamlet is located mid-way up Mount Manggyeongdae, which is about 700 meters (2,300 feet) above sea level.

“Moun” means “neighborhood amid the fog.”

Twenty years ago, Moundong Village was a prosperous town with its own theater and a string of high-class restaurants that made it popular with miners and their families. At its peak, the village had a population of 10,000.

But when the mine closed after the Coal Industry Rationalization Act of 1989 was enacted, the village lost the bulk of its young population and was left deserted with a population of fewer than 50 residents.

In recent years however, visitors have come from around the country to see colorful artwork painted by area residents that now adorn the village’s walls.

The paintings were the brainchild of Kim Heung-sik, 56, a resident who headed the village for 20 years.

Since 2006, Kim has tried to revive the village by renovating desolate buildings into museums that display the history of the village.

“My wife, who was a kindergarten teacher then, would draw rough sketches on the walls. The drawings would then be completed by other residents,” said Kim.

Kim’s efforts drew tourists, who had heard of the place from friends and relatives. When Moundong Village was designated as “A Good Village to Live In” by the Ministry of Public Administration and Security in 2008, it brought even more visitors to the area.

Inspired by scenes from children’s books, the paintings on the village walls feature characters from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and “The Ugly Duckling.”

To get there, take Route 31 from Yeongwol-eup, drive 30 minutes further and you will see the tomb of Kim Satgat. The village is opposite the tomb.

Cheongrok Dabang, or Green Coffeehouse, in Yeongwol-eup, is the actual location where the movie “Radio Star” was filmed. They offer moderately priced coffee.

On “Food Street,” residents are the art

The small town near Moundong Village was once a bustling town filled with hungry mine workers who would line up outside the restaurants situated along the town’s main street.

While many of the restaurants disappeared around the time Moundong Village saw its population decline, today the area is experiencing a revival because of a series of wall paintings adorning the restaurant exteriors.

The paintings are unique because they depict the faces of area residents.

The wall of the restaurant Mirak Town Hall, which is located at the entrance of what has come to be known as “Food Street,” is decorated with paintings of owners Park Gil-sun, 80, and her daughter-in-law Kang Ae-ja, 56.

Adjacent to the paintings is a bronze statue of Park Yeong-sook, 60, who can usually be spotted taking her grandson to school every morning.

One of the biggest attractions for tourists are the large paintings of actors Park Joong-hoon and Ahn Sung-ki on the walls of the Yeongwol Mansion apartment building.

The two actors starred in the box-office hit “Radio Star,” which follows the story of a washed-up rock star and his devoted manager in 2006.

Another popular place nearby is Cheongrok Dabang (coffeehouse), frequented by Park and Ahn in the movie.

Also featured in the film is Gom Laundry, which has been in the same location on “Food Street” for 47 years.

Ironically, however, the rural village has never had its own theater because of its decreasing population.

“I have to go all the way out to Jecheon to watch a movie,” said Kim Kyeong-ae, 51, the owner of Cheongrok Dabang.

The situation is even more extreme for Uhm Ki-joon, 74, a native of Moundong Village and the owner of Gom Laundry.

“I have never watched a single movie in my entire life,” Uhm said.

“Food Street” is located in Yeongwol-eup, near Gwanpongheon, a historic site where King Danjong is said to have lived. Cheongrok Dabang is located 30 meters from Gwanpongheon and “Food Street” is located 30 meters from Cheongrok Dabang.

For more information, call the Yeongwol-gun Culture and Tourism Department: (033) 370-2531 or visit www.eng.yw.go.kr.

Left: Gom Laundry, which was also featured in “Radio Star.”
Right: The pine forest surrounding Jangneung, the tomb of King Danjong By Kwon Hyeok-jae

Vestiges of a young king

Located on the upper side of the Namhan River in Yeongwol County, Changryeongpo is a valuable national historic site.

Surrounded by water on three sides and otherwise blocked by rugged mountains, Changryeongpo, it is best known as the place of exile for the ill-fated young King Danjong (1441-1457) after he was overthrown by his own uncle.

Changryeongpo is also famous for its lush pine forest of more than 700 ancient pine trees. The exiled king is said to have spent the last years of his life here.

King Danjong was said to have been fond of sitting in the two large branches of a 30-meter-tall, 600-year-old pine tree that has since been christened Gwaneumsong, which roughly translates to “pine tree that saw and heard the aggrieved monarch and his laments.”

The king was also said to have created Manghyang Pagoda. Located at the summit of a rock cliff between Yugyukbong and Nosandae Peak on Mount Nosandae. It is said the king made the pagoda to express his inconsolable longing for Hanyang (present-day Seoul) and his queen consort Song, whom he had left behind there.

Considering the tragic history of the place, historical records say that during the colonial period, the Japanese could not even cut down the pine trees of Changryeongpo out of respect for the young king and bowed their heads whenever they passed by the area.

There are other historical sites related to King Danjong near Changryeongpo, including Jangneung, Danjong’s tomb, which is Historical Site No. 196.

Another intriguing fact about the pine trees around Jangneung is that all of the branches are turned toward the grave site.

The people of Yeongwol believe that the trees are bowing to pay their respects to the young king.

Admission to Changryeongpo is 2,000 won ($1.85) for adults and 1,200 won for minors.

To get there, take the bus to Yeongwol Terminal from Express Bus Terminal. The bus runs four times from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Upon arriving at Yeongwol Terminal take the bus headed for Cheongnyeongpo or take a taxi, which takes about five or 10 minutes.

For details, call Cheongryeongpo Management Office: (033) 370-2620 or visit www.eng.yw.go.kr.

By Lee Jeong-bong [estyle@joongang.co.kr]

한글 관련 기사 [중앙일보]

그림옷 입은 동네, 영월

강원도 영월은 오지 중의 오지다. 육지 속에 틀어박힌 섬이다. 세조가 단종 유배지로 영월을 낙점한 것도, 김삿갓의 후손이 영월에 정착한 것도 모두 영월의 지리적 특성 때문이었다. 『정감록』도 십승지지(十勝之地)라 하여 ‘난을 피해서 살 수 있는 곳’ 중 하나로 영월을 꼽았다.

그러고 보니 영월(寧越)은 이름부터 예사롭지 않다. 풀이하자면 ‘무사히 넘기를 바란다’는 뜻이다. 오죽 산줄기가 첩첩이 두르고 있으면 무사히 넘기를 바란다고 불렀을까. 누가 이 이름을 맨 처음 지었을까. 아마도 이 두메산골에 들어와 사는 사람은 아닐 것이다. 이 두메산골로 가족을 떠나보내야 했던 남는 가족이 멀찌감치서 영월을 바라보며 지은 이름일 터이다.

하여 영월은 고개마다 산마루마다 동강 물줄기 휘도는 굽이마다 사람의 흔적이 배어 있다. 가벼운 걸음의 관광객에게는 영월의 수려한 풍광만 눈에 들어와도 호강을 말하겠지만, 영월은 그 그림 같은 풍경이 밴 사람의 흔적까지 보여져야 비로소 온전한 풍경을 완성한다.

영월이 간직한 가장 서글픈 역사는 뭐니뭐니 해도 단종애사(端宗哀史)다. 어린 단종이 유배를 와 사약을 마시고 숨을 거둔 흔적이 영월 곳곳에 문화유적이 되어 남아 있다. 청령포의 절경은 단종이 남긴 흔적으로 인해 언제나 쓸쓸한 풍경을 빚는다.

영월은 굴곡 심한 현대사를 거치면서도 특별한 흔적을 남겼다. 영월을 둘러싼 산줄기마다 탄광이 뚫렸던 시절, 이 강원도의 오지마을은 팔자에도 없는 호사를 누렸다. 1960∼80년대 영월 읍내는 탄광 경기로 흥청댔다. 그 흔적이 지금도 남아 있다. 영월 읍내 이른바 ‘요리골목’에 가면 옛 탄광촌의 기억을 되밟을 수 있다. 한 시절 광부들이 밤마다 점령했던 이 골목은 지금 동네 토박이 주민과 탄광노동자의 얼굴을 소재로 한 미술작품이 들어서 있다. 이 골목에서 지척인 거리에 유명한 ‘청록다방’이 있다. 영화 ‘라디오 스타’에 나왔던 그 다방이다.

모운동이라는 산골마을도 있다. 이 마을 역시 폐광의 흔적을 안고 사는 마을이다. 그러나 지금의 모운동 마을은 여느 폐광촌과 다른 모습이다. 2008년 행정안전부가 ‘참 살기 좋은 마을’로 지정한 뒤로 관광객의 발길이 꾸준히 이어진다. 해발 700m 산중턱에 들어선 마을은 놀랍게도 동화 속 마을처럼 아기자기하고 예쁜 풍경을 자랑한다. 20년째 마을 이장을 맡고 있는 김흥식(56)씨의 땀과 눈물이 사람이 떠난 마을을 사람이 찾아오는 마을로 바꿔놓았다.

흔적은 무늬일 수도 있고, 흉터일 수도 있다. 그 차이는 흔적을 바라보는 시선에 의해 결정된다. 영월을 향해 떠나는 발걸음이 마냥 가벼워서는 안 되는 까닭이다. 영월에서는 풍경의 무늬를 읽기를 바란다.

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