In the rough and raw neighborhood of Mullae-dong, complete with small-sized ironworks crowded together in tightly-woven alleys, the sounds from the steel machineries in the crumbling sight of an apparent urban decay have accommodated local artists of diverse fields for the past decade. What was happening before that?
The former name for Mullae-dong is Sacheon-ri (roughly translates to ‘Sand Village’), which refers to the mudflats that existed in abundance in the area during the Chosun era. This ancient title is even included in a map created in 1872, but following the Japanese colonization of Korea, it changed to Saokjeong (‘Weaving Village’).
Due to the proximity to the waterbody (Han River) as well as a rail station (Namgyeongseong Station built in 1936, now Yeongdeungpo Station), a significant number of Japanese textile companies moved into the area, which is the reason why many of the old structures contain Japanese architectural elements. Those who were working in textile manufacturing were residing in temporary living quarters which still remain, as gritty buildings in Mullae Arts Village.
It was after the independence that the area got the name we know it as now. In 1960, the textile industry transformed into modern steel plants as President Park Chung-hee pushed for national self-sufficiency in iron industry. In the 1980’s, however, Mullae saw a huge decline in activity as cheaper raw materials and manufactured goods started flooding in from China.
The number of continuing ironworks are still on the decline. However, inside the remaining small-sized workshops, skilled technicians are at work throughout the day. Following the artists who have opened up studios and galleries since about a decade ago, creative venues and undeniably-hipster joints started filling the rough alleys of Mullae. You can now find little signs that read, “Please respect personality rights,” referring to the small groups of tourists who flock here with a camera in their hand. Yet, it’s still an area where you’d have to “know before you go.” Check out our list of Mullae venues for your next visit to the area.