Ansan City in Gyeonggi Province has the greatest density of foreign residents in Korea and has thus built a reputation for itself as a multicultural city. In the 1970s, migrant workers began to settle in Ansan due to the construction of the Banwol Industrial Complex, and in 2009, the city was designated as a Multicultural Village Special Zone.
Visitors who arrive at Ansan Station on Seoul Subway Line 4 and leave through Exit No. 1 will be greeted by the city’s multicultural food street, where there are more signs written in foreign languages than in Hangeul. Even signage in English is overshadowed by that in other scripts and alphabets. The area, which had always been bustling with visitors until the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, boasts a cluster of restaurants and street vendors that specialize in various international cuisines.
It took considerable time and effort on the part of Ansan’s municipal authorities to free the city from being seen as a so-called foreigners’ town and emerge as an unconventional tourist spot conveniently close to Seoul. City authorities cleaned up and reorganized the commercial district and furnished it with visitor-oriented facilities. The Global Multicultural Center, which opened in 2012, showcases a variety of relics, musical instruments, and toys from around the world and hosts events in which visitors can use them. The center is particularly favored by young people who enjoy taking pictures dressed in the traditional garments of other countries.
One major landmark of the multicultural special zone is the artwork of a human figure on the wall of Ansan’s Migrant Community Service Center. The figure is comprised of the national flags of 58 countries and its arms form a large heart. The figure speaks to all people living inside and outside Ansan, delivering the message: “We are one. I love you.”
Written by Kim Moonyoung
Illustrated by EEWHA