Following the first mini Germany in Namhae County, a German hanok village is being planned in Suncheon.
As published on CNN Travel
The city of Suncheon in the South Jeolla province is planning to build a second German Village in Korea beginning next year.
Unlike the first German Village, located on a mountain by the southern sea, the new village will be built in the middle of the city on a 248,000-square-meter plot, 80 percent of which was donated by the former Minister of Health and Welfare Kim Hwa-joong, who is also heading the project.
The other 20 percent is being provided by the city of Suncheon.
The context for both villages is to invite back and provide subsidies for Korean miners and nurses who were sent to Germany by the government in return for financial aid during some of Korea’s poorest years in the 1960s and 1970s.
“Thousands of workers went to Germany during that time,” says Kim, who was first inspired to build a second German Village when she visited Germany in 2007 during her term in the Ministry.
“They are some of Korea’s biggest patriots in history, and our country has not recognized them enough for what they did for our country,” says Kim. “Once they went over, they couldn’t come back for years or decades and weren’t able to see their families for the longest time. It was a big sacrifice.”
While Namhae County’s German Village actually has cobblestone streets and white and orange houses with German designs, the second village will be comprised of hanok, or houses with traditional Korean architecture.
A total of 100 houses will be set aside for Korean-Germans and their spouses, who will only need to pay for the actual cost of building the houses, while another 100 houses will be sold to anyone wishing to take part in the German cultural community. Exact prices have yet to be announced.
“We hope that this will be more than just a tourist attraction — it will become a multi-cultural hub where people can come to learn the language and immerse themselves in this culture, and also find out the history of the cooperation between Germany and Korea,” says Kim.
German Village No. 1
Though mostly residential, the first German Village in Namhae County has become a popular tourist destination over the past few years as word has spread about its interesting look and feel.
Citizens rent out rooms to curious guests who wish to see what “real German homes” look like.
Due to its proximity to the 2012 Yeosu Expo site, many homes were designated as official World Expo Stays. The rooms fill up quickly and are often booked on the weekends, so advance reservations are highly recommended.
It’s certainly not the size that draws travelers to the village — the actual village itself is pretty small. One can walk it end to end in about 10 minutes, jog it in five minutes and drive through it — if there isn’t traffic of course — in one minute.
Instead, they go for the little nuances that make the place quite different from anywhere else in Korea.
Small, narrow roads and alleys intertwine just as they do in Germany, while white fences surround colorful flower gardens and manicured lawns.
The European-style homes have reportedly been built with imported materials from Germany and the cars even have German license plates.
Juliane Eirich, a professional photographer and native German who lived in Korea from February 2007 until September 2008 while studying visual communication at Hongik University, visited the village several times for a photo-project.
Although she says the village isn’t quite as authentic as those in Germany, she still found her herself taken back at times.
“You can talk German to everybody, you can buy great sausages and ham there,” she says. “Talking German, I was sometimes confused where I am and it did not feel like the Korean south coast at all.”
Despite the tourist draw (more than 10,000 are expected for Oktoberfest this year), there aren’t many places to eat or drink. In fact, when Park-yong he visited the German Village for the first time three years ago there were none.
“After I visited I decided right away that I wanted to move there. The beaches were beautiful but there was really nothing else.”
That’s when Park, originally from Seoul, decided she would open the village’s first café.
Park’s Café Klang is located at the unofficial entrance of the village. The rustic coffeehouse sits on a hill with a direct view of the water, and serves typical coffeehouse fare including pastries, sandwiches, fruits and homegrown tea. It also has it’s own on-site roasting room.
Above the roasting room is a pension with two beds, its own kitchen, dining area, living room with a flat screen TV and balcony with a view of the Korea Strait. The room costs ₩200,000 (US$177) per night and those interested in staying for a night or weekend should make reservations in advance.
About 40 meters up the road from Café Klang is Café Kranzler, named after a café in Berlin. Here you can get more of a traditional German feel as it not only offers ice cream, waffles, fruits and bagels but sausages served alongside sauerkraut and sweet mustard, which go well with German beer. The outdoor porch seating also offers a great view of the water.
At the very other end of the village, across from a public parking lot, is Coffee Bremen, named after a northern port city in Germany. Here more typical coffeehouse varieties are available — cheesecakes, muffins and freshly squeezed fruit juices. The clock is always set to Frankfurt time.
Ironically, the biggest attraction of the German Village has nothing to do with Germany at all. It’s the fictional home of Jang Cheol-Su, the main male character of Korea’s award winning 2006 TV drama, ‘Couple or Trouble.’
The show, most of which was actually filmed in German Village, was an adaptation of the American film ‘Overboard,’ a romantic comedy that starred Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell.
Now the retired movie house is just a regular home. Unfortunately for the inhabitants, there is a continual bombardment each weekend by those who want to take pictures of the house, some even trying to make their way inside.
Because of its recent fame, the German Village is continuing to attract more and more visitors, especially during the fall when it hosts an annual Oktoberfest for three days.
How to get there
A trip from Seoul to the German Village is quite easy and inexpensive, especially considering you’re traveling to basically the farthest side of the country.
From Nambu Bus Terminal, purchase a ticket to Namhae Bus Terminal. There are eight departure times spread throughout the day from 8:30 a.m. until 7 p.m. A one way ticket will cost ₩22,600 and takes a about four and a half hours, which includes a 20 minute break at a rest area.
Once you arrive at Namhae Bus Terminal, go to the ticketing window and proceed to buy your next ticket (₩2,700) to the German Village. The ride takes 40 minutes.