Samcheok Coal Mine was the largest privately run mine site, turns into Samtan Art Mine after being abandoned for ten years.
You may have seen the scenery of Samtan Art Mine?in the Korean show, “Running Man,” or the movie “The Spy: Undercover Operation, 2013.” They have used this site for various T.V. shows, movies, dramas, and music videos. When you visit, you may see some familiar sites that were once just a place on your T.V. screen. This place used to be more than just a production set. This coal mine was built in 1962 as Samcheok Coal Mine and abandoned October 2001. Ten years later, it began the 2-year remodeling process and reopened their doors to the public on May 24th, 2013. Samcheok Coal Mine transformed into Samtan Art Mine where it reflects the coal mine in the past along with exhibition of contemporary art, world art collection, art experience hall, and a mine gallery.
Let’s take it back to 1962 when Samtan Art Mine used to be Samcheok Coal Mine. Samcheok Coal Mine employed over 3,000 miners. This huge industry led the city known as “Samtan Republic” at one point in time. Over 1.5 million tons of coal was mined just from this area. But as the coal industry decline, so did Samcheok Coal Mine. They had to close their doors in 2001 after a long struggle of trying to keep it open. People just got up and left leaving the whole mine behind. The mine workers all split up, finding new ways of living. Everyone left but the soul of Samcheok Coal Mine was left behind.
Samcheok Coal Mine decided to turnover into a more eventful site to depict history and art like the museum in Germany called the Zollverein Museum. The actual office building of the coal mine consists of four floors. Each floor features something special that makes wandering through the museum much more exciting. Every floor is cut into halves for the continuity of exhibiting contemporary art and historical facts of the mine itself. The fourth floor is the very top floor where you enter into the building. This floor consists of 15 residency rooms. These rooms are for artists and writers that would like a quiet space to stay for their creative minds to run with the wind alongside the mountain. These rooms are also open to anyone who would like their own space to be creative for couple of days. Each room carries a theme of other countries’ cultures. For those who stay at these rooms will also receive discounts on other art experience classes they provide at the mine. Or the guests of the residency can also provide their own experience classes for other guests that visit the mine.
The next floor down is the third floor that officially starts the exhibition of art and history of the mine combined. In the mine’s history, guests will find the reference library. Here is where the records of past salary invoices of miners are collected. Further, some tools and equipment used to mine coal are also featured. These tools are quite old and have been used throughout the coal mine’s history. On the other half of the third floor exhibits contemporary art of various artists from China and Japan. The art mine plans to showcase different works from more diverse artists every four months. This will not make returning guests visits boring at all.
The second floor gives a more personal touch to guests. The president of Samtan Art Mine shows his collection of art work from traveling to over 150 countries within the last thirty years. These art works are not fully displayed but are planned to be displayed in their “Inca Civilization” and “Africa’s Art Works” section. These are all shelved and can be viewed through the glass window. But, to appreciate the work better, it is recommended to come back when the new wings/sections open. This floor used to be the coal mine’s restroom and shower facility. It depicts exactly how the miners had to spend their day on a daily basis. Approximately 300 employees would take showers at the same time in the shower facility.? This was the largest shower facility any coal mine had at that time. If you take a look at this shower facility, it runs chills down your spine because some part of it reminds you of the toxic gas rooms that existed in World War II. This shower facility currently showcases the actual x-ray films that were taken of the miners during their scheduled health check-ups. These continuous health checks and photographs all over the walls portray exactly how hard and tough this job was.
The last floor of the office building, the first floor, is where the residency’s artists can run their art experience classes. Along with a caf? and a small gift shop for guests, there is a lot of history of the coal mine on this floor. This floor was used for cleaning the miners’ boots and other attire while mining. There are big washing machines that are displayed with a twist of art that shows how the attire was washed. On this floor, guests may see something that is very intriguing. Wedding dresses are put together into another form of art but these were real wedding dresses that were used at the time the mine was running full speed. The miner’s never had a chance to hold a real wedding ceremony but had many couples live together. The displayed wedding dresses were used for only photo shoots that are portrayed in the pictures. This exhibit is dedicated to those hard working miner’s as a sign of hope and new beginnings for the couple.
From the first floor, there is a path that takes you out of the building. This path leads to where the actual coal was dug up and sent to the train station by the use of the vertical shaft. The vertical shaft is left the way it was from the beginning of this establishment. It can go down 600 meters and on the way down there are level tunnels at 50 meter intervals. Because of this particular preservation, this site is used in dramas, movies, and music videos.
As you leave the shaft area, there is a tunnel that used to be the entrance into the mine. This is now used as a wine cellar. The tunnel maintains a consistent temperature of 12 degrees Celsius throughout the year. The wine is served for guests at the restaurant of the art mine. This leads to the final part of the art mine. The building next to the main office used to be the maintenance factory back in the day, but it has been renovated into a restaurant. The restaurant is open to all of the guests. It serves quite appetizing meals and they even do barbeques on the grill. This is the best ending to your tour of the art mine with the nicely kept wine from the tunnel.