Less than 10 kilometers away from the DMZ (Demiliterized Zone) is a … quirky little art village called ‘Heyri’.
I did not come into this village with high expectations. Based on my travel experience, I figured it could be a genuinely cool place, or it could be a bore. My experience with South Korean art galleries up to that point had been pretty good, so I decided it was worth a look.
Plenty of people were on the bus, but once I got off, there weren’t many people around. It was a weekend, but apparently, I came early, and most of the businesses/galleries were closed until 10am, such as the bookstore cafe above.
The ecological pond in the center of the village, of course, was open for strolling.
I don’t know what it is about South Korea and erotic art. I keep on hearing about how South Korea is a ‘conservative’ society where sexual stuff is considered strictly private and thus considered unfit for public display, but then I keep running into places such as Haesindang Penis Park and the Museum of Sex & Health. Japan is known for being much more open with erotica, yet I have trouble imagining an outdoor display like this in a public area in Japan (then again, I would have trouble imagining it in South Korea if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes).
Though it was a nice blue sky, and some of the views are nice, something seemed very odd about this place being so devoid of people. Well, it was the weekend, so I figured I should just wait.
I visited the little Han Hyang Lim Onggi Museum, which does have a good collection of ceramics, focusing on the work of the talented Han Hyang Lim. They also had a few pieces by Picasso. I didn’t know Picasso made ceramics on top of all of his other artistic work.
Even after 10am, though businesses and galleries opened up, and it was the weekend, not many people came. I was disappointed. Maybe it’s because of the rectangular concrete box buildings mixed with trees shedding their leaves, but I felt that the village was a bit desolate without larger crowds of people.
However, I was delighted by an unexpected surprise: being able to take strange photographs of the windows, combining the interior and reflection of the exterior.
One section of the village is apparently a theme park dedicated to the cartoon character ‘Dalki’. No, I know practically nothing about ‘Dalki’. Alas, there were few children around, I would have liked to have seen how they react.
I also walked into a little shop selling books and various other things. The woman there was very nice, even though I made it clear I was not interested in purchasing anything, and she even gave me a free booklet in English about the royal palaces in Seoul.
So Heyri was not what I expected. The one gallery I did properly visit was pretty good. However, there were much fewer people than I expected on a weekend (maybe spending a week in Seoul had made me think the whole world, or at least Gyeoggi Province, was overrun by masses of people), and the atmosphere of concrete boxes against hills covered by autumn forests on a cold morning was … a little bleak. And I got a cool photography exercise.