Changwon in southeastern Korea was chosen as the site of an industrial complex in 1973 by President Park Chung-hee, who envisioned the creation of a world-class machinery industry that would in turn power the growth of the defense and chemicals industries.
Ground was broken the following year, turning rice paddies, hills and mud flats into a massive industrial complex.
Fast-forward 38 years, and Changwon has grown into a city with a population of more than 1.1 million.
The Changwon History and Folklore Center opened to the public on Aug. 24. Changwon Mayor Park Wan-su and prominent artists were among the 500 guests at the opening ceremony. "Even though Changwon is a wonderful city, we lacked a facility to show visitors its history," Park said. "Now that the Changwon History and Folklore Center is open, we hope that you will tell more people about it."
The center is just part of the transformation of the industrial city over the last few years. Changwon has been setting an example for urban revival by creating workspaces for artists out of empty industrial buildings in the Masan area and building a thriving business district around them.
The center cost W9.5 billion (US$1=W1,132) and stands two stories high with an underground level, altogether covering 3,238 sq. m. It houses four permanent exhibition halls, a special exhibition hall and space for movie projections. In order to make the center more accessible, Changwon city created a walking path linking it to the House of Changwon, a traditional Korean house or hanok based on the home of a famous Chosun-era scholar.
The city also built rest areas, a souvenir shop, playground and a grass parking lot.
After the opening ceremony, a concert was open to all residents.
"We want to develop the Changwon History and Folklore Center along with the House of Changwon into the region's main tourist attraction," said Kim Jong-pil, who is in charge of culture and art projects in the city.
Various events since Saturday have marked the opening of the center, including traditional craftwork classes and other hands-on experiences. A series of special exhibitions showcasing the region's artifacts and treasures are planned into next year, including one commemorating the International Congress of Educating Cities in the city in April this year.