Artists are stepping in to turn many of them into exhibition spaces.
Some have been transformed into cafes and restaurants run by the town. Profits go back to the villagers.
Small, quiet and mostly hidden from the tourist path, Gamcheon isn't ready for a flood of visitors. It prefers the occasional trickle that it has today.
"I don't think fat foreigners can fit through these alleyways," says another guide when asked about tours for foreigners.
"They'll have to watch their heads every step, too. It'll be very uncomfortable."
How to get there
In Busan, take the subway to Toseong-dong Station or Goejeong Station, then take a taxi to Busan Gamjeong Elementary School (taxi will cost approximately $2.50).
Tour company Jane Tour & DMC offers day tours in English from $300; +82 70 7393 2428
Gamcheon Culture Village, 10-13 Gamcheon-2-dong, Saha-gu, Busan, South Korea; +82 70 4219 5556; Sky Garden village information center open daily, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
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