In the past, camping was simply a hobby for a small number of people who sought out the wilderness, far away from the conveniences of civilization, and enjoyed roughing it in nature. Today, however, camping has become a common leisure activity for many families on holidays. The rapid increase in the number of camping enthusiasts is creating a new culture of leisure in Seoul. Glamping, a portmanteau of “glamorous” and “camping,” referring to camping that includes expensive equipment and services, is a major example of this cultural change. In contrast to traditional camping, glamping allows people to stay amid nature while enjoying the same conveniences and services of a hotel or resort. Glamping in Korea generally involves renting tents that have already been set up near a beach or in the forest against a breathtaking backdrop, and people who enjoy glamping are called “glampers.”
Since 2013, the Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) has been transforming abandoned schools outside Seoul into camping sites. It opened the Hoengseong Byeolbit Village Camping Site (former Wolhyeon Branch School) in 2013, Pocheon Jayeon Village Camping Site (former Sajeong Branch School) in 2014, Jecheon Haneultteure Camping Site (former Songhan Branch School) in 2015, and Cheolwon Pyeonghwa Village Camping Site (former Yugok Branch School) in 2016.
The use of abandoned schools as camping sites is not only offering Seoul citizens more opportunities to enjoy leisure activities, but also increasing exchanges between the city and agricultural regions and vitalizing the regional economy. The idea was welcomed not only by Seoul citizens but by the residents of local communities as well. The number of closed schools outside Seoul has continued to rise, and although local autonomies had transformed them into welfare facilities for their residents, the utilization rate had been low. As camping sites, on the other hand, the schools have created more opportunities for urban-rural exchange, such as through kiosks operated by residents and the sale of special local goods. The increase in the number of campers using the sites has led to the recruitment of residents as staff to operate the kiosks, provide information, and serve as safety guards, thereby creating jobs in local communities.
The first camping site created from an abandoned school was the Hoengseong Byeolbit Village Camping Site in 2013. It has since become incredibly popular, with bookings recording over 90 percent during school holidays and weekends. Located in Gangnim-myeon, Hoengseong-gun, Gangwon-do, the site of the former Wolhyeon Branch School was designated as Korea’s first Starlight Protection Zone in 1999. It is a clean space with only a few homes set against a graceful mountain background—millions of stars can be seen there in the clear night sky. It is a perfect place for Seoul citizens, exhausted by their crowded and stifled urban lives, to get some rest and relaxation. Moreover, the camping site is located near Chiaksan National Park and the magnificent Jucheongang River and is equipped with 20 pre-installed tents, classrooms, assembly hall, restrooms, communal kitchen, parking lot, management office, and kiosk in an area spanning 7,500 square meters. The tent, blankets, stoves, and picnic tables provided at the site may be used free of charge.
Inquiries: Hoengseong Byeolbit Village Seoul Camping Site Management Office T. 033-342-4586
|Hoengseong Byeolbit Village Seoul Camping Site||Tents for 4 to 5 people each||Wooden block playroom|
The Jayeon Village Camping Site opened in 2014 at the former Sajeong Branch School in Pocheon, Gyeonggi-do. Specializing in providing nature experiences to families visiting from Seoul, the camping site offers 25 camping spots and a range of amenities, including restrooms, shower facilities, communal kitchen, parking lot, and kiosk. In addition, it offers entertainment facilities, such as an outdoor pool, movie theater, table tennis facilities, and a baduk class. Located nearby the site is the Hantan River, famous for its beautiful landscape, as well as Gonamsan Mountain and Sanjeong Lake, giving visitors the chance to enjoy both swimming and mountain climbing. In addition, the nearby farms are great places to see some animals and plants. The camping site is equipped with basic camping facilities, such as wooden decks, tables, stoves, and tents provided by K2, all of which visitors may use free of charge. All campers have to pack are basic necessities for a night out and food that can be easily prepared and enjoyed.
Inquiries: Pocheon Jayeon Village Camping Site Management Office T. 031-533-9535
|Tents||Dish-washing site||Book cafe|
The Jecheon Haneultteure Camping Site was created by remodeling the Songhan Branch School, which was closed down in 1993, and is capable of accommodating up to 20 families (20 pre-installed tents) at once. It is equipped with various amenities, including restrooms, shower facilities, communal kitchen, parking lot, and kiosk, as well as basic camping supplies, allowing visitors to enjoy some very convenient camping. The camping site also offers a wide range of programs and activities, such as swimming in an outdoor pool, observing the constellations, table tennis, gardening, and a plant and animal experience program. The camping site is located near famous tourist destinations amid a beautiful natural environment, comprising the Urimji Reservoir, Bibongsan Mountain, and Baeron Holy Ground, giving campers the chance to experience both the history and culture of the area.
Inquiries: Jecheon Haneultteure Camping Site Management Office T. 043-652-3926
|View of the former Songhan Branch School||Tents for 4 to 5 people each (Jecheon)||Baduk class|
The Cheolwon Camping Site is the fourth family camping site to open after the Hoengseong, Pocheon, and Jecheon sites. Located in an area where civilian access is restricted, it offers a truly unique camping experience. The former Yugok Branch School was shut down in 1994 and left abandoned for some 20 years. However, through the active efforts of Cheolwon-gun and its residents to host a Seoul Camping Site, it was opened with the cooperation of the army unit in charge of the entrance to the area. The former school’s athletic field now accommodates 25 tents and a foot volleyball court, and the classrooms have been remodeled to create a table tennis room, reading room, shower facilities, and restrooms. Visitors are welcome to use all of the camping supplies available on the site, including tents, tables, and stoves. In addition, all visitors are required to undergo a confirmation procedure at the designated checkpoint in order to access the usually restricted area.
Inquiries: Cheolwon Pyeonghwa Village Camping Site Management Office T. 033-455-3904
|View of the former Yugok Branch School||Tents for 4 to 5 people each (Cheolwon)||Table tennis room|
Bookings for the Seoul Camping Sites can be made through the SMG’s public service reservation system. Please refer to the Seoul Family Camping Site blog for booking status and detailed camping site information. Also, keep in mind that the camping sites are open from March to November. Bookings for the Hoengseong Byeolbit Village Seoul Camping Site and Pocheon Nature Village Seoul Camping Site begin at 14:00 on the 10th day of the month prior to the desired booking month, while bookings for the Jecheon Haneultteure Seoul Camping Site and Cheolwon Peace Village Seoul Camping Site begin at 14:00 on the 15th day of the month prior to the desired booking month. Check-in starts at 13:00, while check-out must be completed prior to 11:00. Visitors may use the tents, stoves, and picnic tables free of charge, but must bring sleeping bags, blankets, food, and coolers. The use of electric stoves, heaters, or grills is prohibited at the camping sites.