MULLAE-DONG, WHICH literally refers to the site of Mun Ik-jeom’s cultural ancestry, was once a foundation of Seoul’s steel and machine industry. During the 1960s and the 1970s, many textile manufacturing companies and steel industries were rooted in Mullae-dong; more than 1,000 steel industries were in full operation. However, due to the financial crisis in the late 1990s and the establishment of industrial complexes around the capital area, steel industries started to move out. As a result of the mass relocation, many buildings were left empty and the rent around the region declined drastically. Gradually, young artists of Hongdae and Daehak-ro started to move in and naturally formed an Art Village to where ironworkers used to process steel.
Hearing and smelling Mullae
When you visit Mullae Art Village during week days, you will be able to hear the operating sounds of steel machines and smell an unusual scent of iron. Though not as many machines operate nowadays as compared to the past, some industries are still running briskly. Getting closer, you will be able to feel the sharp scent of steel tickling your nose. The smell and rhythmical sound of steel being processed will create a marvelous harmony and invite you to a different world that you have never experienced. Though it is just about 30 minutes from Sinchon, the place looks as if time had stopped in the 1970s.
Steel and art
The pathways of Mullae Art Village are narrow and decorated with mural paintings. Strolling around, you will be able to find artworks made of steel. Though steel is usually regarded merely as a type of intermediary goods, in the Mullae Art Village, steel itself is art. Many forms of steel, including round and square ones, waiting to be manufactured, may look like pieces of abstract art as a whole. Moreover, artworks made of steel show genuine characteristics of the material. Many of the artworks do not distort the natural figure of steel, keeping intact its unique rusty features.
An art piece that looks like a horse at the entrance of the Art Village looks quite ordinary from a distance. However, looking at it closely, you will see that each part of it is made of tools used to fabricate steel, such as spanner or wrench. Another art piece which looks like a human face, along the pathway leading into the village, is made up of saw-toothed wheels. Walking deeper into the village, you will encounter a blue robot with a red hat sitting on a chair. Its name is “Moon Robot,” and its eyes are also made up of saw-toothed wheels. The robot has a flower in its hands, but its face looks somewhat sad and spiritless. Thus, the sentimental atmosphere that the robot creates adds an irreplaceable vintage aura to the Mullae Art Village. At the end of the village, a unique looking chair made of two hammers will be there for you to sit down and rest.
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Retro is now a big trend in Korea, inclusive of all ages. People listen to music that was popular in the 1980s, and buy snacks that resemble ones that were popular in the past. Visiting Mullae-dong will fulfill your desire to feel a sense of a retro atmosphere. Walking down the streets that remind us of the past and listening to sounds that would have been prevalent in a 1970s steel industry, you will feel as if you are in the 20th century. This March, when the warm spring breeze leads us to travel somewhere, it is the perfect time to feel a vintage sensation and travel back in time. Why not hop on the subway and visit Mullae Art Village?