Next best thing to a safari is just beyond Seoul's urban sprawlThe founding of the Latin American Culture Center and Museum was a first in Korea. It provided residents with a permanent display of art from distant countries when it opened in the Gyeonggi province city of Goyang some eight years ago.
Now, in the same spirit, African cultural items have been given a long-term home here.
The African Village, also in Gyeonggi province and a 90-minute drive northeast of Seoul, opened its doors to the public in April. The village is built over a scenic, sprawling area. It has five exhibition halls, a sculpture garden, lakes, a cafe and a strolling path. The halls contain nearly 6,000 artifacts, including masks, batik, wooden carvings, paintings and bronzes.
Most of the objects in the complex are from West Africa. There are also exhibits on African folk music, clothing, food and animals indigenous to the continent.
The village has folk dances at 3 p.m. daily, with extra shows at 7 p.m. on Saturdays. The 11 performers, from the Ivory Coast, are staying in the village during their time here.
The areas that make up the village are named after famous places, such as Mt. Kilimanjaro, Lake Victoria and Lake Malawi.
The village also provides travel information for those who want to go to Africa for a safari or enjoy its beaches or dynamic cultures.
There also is a restaurant on the grounds, Club Safari, where visitors can sample the indigenous cuisine of West Africa. African-style barbecue, or braai, is recommended. Reservations are advisable.
To get to the village, drive northeast from Seoul toward the city of Namyang until you pass through the Paldang Tunnel. Then turn left along the northern bank of the Han River. To reach the village, turn left about a kilometer before reaching the Seoul Film Studios complex; there is a sign for the village on the main road. Then it is about two kilometers from the main road.
The village is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. The entrance fee is 3,000 won ($2.50) for adults and 2,000 won for children.
For more information, visit www.africanvillage.co.kr, or call 031-576-6622.
by Choi Jie-ho