Gaemi (Ant) Village, Hongje-dong is one of the city's few remaining daldongnae(run-down “moon-side” villages). The village sprouted up in the aftermath of the Korean War (1950-53) and it was where the poor started settling down.
Many lived in shabbily constructed tents that resembled Native American tepees in Western movies, and so the area was nicknamed, ``Indian Town.'' It then became known as Ant Village after the hardworking residents.
High up on the northwest slope of Mt. Inwangsan sits Gaemi Maeul—literally meaning “Ant Village.” Saved from development by the steep gradient on which it is located, Gaemi Maeul retains the character of neighborhoods that sprang up throughout Seoul during Korea’s years of rabid urbanization in the 1960s and 1970s. This nostalgic atmosphere has made it popular as a location for shooting films and TV dramas, and even gotten it designated by Mapo Ward as a special cultural zone. Narrow concrete flights of steps wind up between the terraced arrangements of single-story houses that look out onto the rest of the city far below. Cats lounge apathetically on the rooftops, eyes half open.
Last August, with the consent of residents, Seodaemun-gu government, Kumho Construction and 128 volunteers from five universities have given the area a facelift. The project did not build new houses but art students embellished exteriors with thematic drawings and logos representing family, hope and eco-friendliness.Rather than being a tourist destination in its own right, Gaemi Maeul makes a great alternative starting point for a hike over Mt. Inwangsan, meeting the old city wall and following it downhill in a northeasterly direction to Buam-dong, another hilltop neighborhood with good places to eat and drink. Try Rabia for some pasta and pizza, or Club Espresso for an excellent selection of coffees roasted in-house and cookies.
Getting there Hongje Station, Line 3, Exit 2. Take maeul bus No. 7 from outside KFC, between Exits 1 and 2 of the subway station. Get off soon after the bus starts to climb the road into the village. If you’re heading over the mountain, follow the road through the village until it ends at a park. Carry on up along the path, following the signs to Gicha-bawi Ridge. Follow the path over the granite mountaintop and across a short saddle to meet the old city fortress wall. Turn left and follow the base of the wall downhill. The path is a bit hairy. When you reach an iron walkway, climb it to the other side of the fortress wall. The path becomes much better—just follow it down to Buam-dong.