Dying Moon Village, Nowon-gu, Seoul (Part 1)

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Anyone who enjoys exploring Seoul’s older, more dilapidated neighborhoods will know where this place is. People passionate about post-Korean War urban development will immediately recognize this area. Even those searching for an interesting Instagrammable spot are aware of this daldongnae situated in Nowon-gu, which is also incorrectly labeled as the last remaining moon village in Seoul. I feel I don’t need to share the name because it’s pretty easy to find if you want to seek it out. This moon village has made national headlines over the years due to potential “New Town” redevelopment projects, yet the community has survived one way or another. 

I first visited this place five or six years ago, as I was interested in exploring Korea’s urban landscape. It was in bad shape then, but there were attempts to beautify the neighborhood. Members/supporters of the community erected murals in various styles to brighten up the area, possibly part of the movement to save it from the redevelopment. The village has survived threats from demolition multiple times in the past. At some point, possibly due to media attention, this place became a popular photography destination.

Like other moon villages, it is on the side of a steep hill. The roads here slowly meander to the top, where on a sunny day, two mountains will greet you.
The red circles spray painted on the walls means the house is empty.
As of the time of this writing, this is still an active business.
A series of murals provide a timeline of the village’s history. Korea’s economy struggled in the 90s in general, but I imagine it was even more challenging for this community’s residents.
The Zion Church has been closed down for a long time. It was in this same state during my first visit.

A friend told me that he got word the village was emptying, so my wife and I decided to look for ourselves a couple of months back. I remember during my first visit seeing a few empty buildings, but on this recent trip, I’d say that 75-80 percent of the residents were gone. Empty houses were easy to identify with red circles spray-painted on the sides of the dwellings. There were plenty of opportunities to get into houses, but it didn’t feel that was the best time to check them out. We ran into a few remaining residents who eyed us with suspicion (or weariness) due to our cameras. One resident saw us playing with a friendly cat; she explained that this one loves photographers because they always feed him. He uses his feline charms to get paid in churu.

The watch is on now. It might not be for a few more years, but this village is definitely on its last legs. I am eager to get to know this place before it’s gone. Luckily I will have more time to spend here, unlike with Bamgol Moon Village, which I arrived late to examine closely. I am sure I will have plenty of opportunities to explore empty houses; it’s all about knowing/intuiting when and where the right time appears.

I will end this post with my favorite building during my recent trip. It was an old film/video store that had bitten the dust a long time ago. Highlights for me are the old film stickers still affixed to the window and the hand-painted store sign.

The store offered film development and video production.
Konica film.
Hyundai SR Film.
Fuji and Kodak Gold film.

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