[Explore Europe in Korea #2] From France to Italy and Switzerland, a mini Europe exists in the midst of Gapyeong

연합뉴스 / 2021-06-05 09:52:01
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▲ This photo provided by Petite France shows the complete view of Petite France from above. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap) 



GAPYEONG, June 4 (Yonhap) -- As you walk up the mountain path surrounding Cheongpyeong Lake in Gapyeong-gun, Gyeonggi-do, the colorful pastel-toned houses make one believe they have travelled back to Medieval France. 


The following landscape represents Petite France, a long-standing tourist attraction in Gapyeong as well as Pinocchio and da Vinci themed Italian town, which recently opened next door. 


Both villages are boasts its considerable size of 33,000 square meters (10,000 pyeong), which, when combined, is enough to fill one side of the mountain. The collection of these villages are enough to create a mini Europe in Korea. 


◇ From architectural design to cultural displays, Petite France has it all 


Petite France, which represents the French cultural village, is one of the most prominent European villages in Korea.


It opened in 2008 and is the first theme park to open with the theme of a country in Korea.


While the German Village in Namhae County, Gyeongsangnam-do, was significant in that it was built by actual Korean-Germans, Petite France is unique as it has not only adapted the French architectural style but have physically brought pieces of culture from France.  


The building was modeled after the city of Orleans, located in the south of Paris, France, and was designed by a French architect.


The plaza and shopping streets located in every corner of the village also closely resembles the local feeling of France. 


Unlike most tourist attractions that advocate European villages with fancy names and building designs, Petite France offers various attractions for visitors to enjoy. 


The "French Traditional House Exhibition Hall" has moved the 19th-century French home exactly, and the "European Doll's House" displays 300 medieval European dolls and props that are hundreds of years old.


▲ This photo shows the "French Traditional House Exhibition Hall," which resembles a 200-year-old traditional house in France. The household items displayed inside give a glimpse of the French food, clothing, and housing culture. (Yonhap)


The way Petite France portrays the story of the fairy tale "The Little Prince" is also interesting. 


In addition to the exhibition on the life of Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the author of "The Little Prince," there are several fairy tale sketches drawn by the writer and copies of "The Little Prince" by country and time periods.


The fact that Petite France owns these collections of exhibits that one would only see in big exhibitions in Korea is impressive. 


This was possible due to the formal license agreement made with The Antoine de Saint Exupery Youth Foundation in France.


An official from Petite France said, "This space was not created just to become a tourist destination, but rather, a place where we can deliver something beneficial and exchange culture. We tried to capture the essence of France at the cost of purchasing licenses to deliver our sincere values and culture."


▲ This photo shows a part of the Saint-Exupery Exhibition. The sketches on the wall are copies of "The Little Prince" illustrations brought in from The Antoine de Saint Exupery Youth Foundation in France. (Yonhap)


◇ From France to Italy and Switzerland...the scent of Europe surrounds the Gyeonggi Province.


The Italian town called 'Pinocchio and da Vinci,' which opened on May 22nd, is an upgraded theme park based on the operational experience of Petite France over the past 13 years. 


If Petite France seemed like a village made up of cute houses, the Italian town is twice as large and has a medieval castle design, which was inspired by Italy's Tuscany architecture style. 


The Italian town also has a license agreement with The National Carlo Collodi Foundation in Italy.


Based on the name of the town, the main theme revolves around Pinocchio, a fairy tale character loved by people around the world, and Leonardo da Vinci, a genius born by the Renaissance.


▲ This photo shows the giant statue of Pinocchio standing outside the Italy town 'Pinocchio and da Vinci.' The 10.8 m tall statue is a variation of the official Pinocchio character of The National Carlo Collodi Foundation in Italy. (Yonhap)


At the entrance of the town, a giant state of Pinocchio welcomes the visitors and once you step inside the 'Geppetto Alley,' rows of antique and mask exhibition halls and souvenir shops will catch your eyes. Geppetto is the name of the old carpenter who created Pinocchio in the fairy tale.


Petite France, Pinocchio and Da Vinci are all masterpieces that reflected the dreams and passion held by the Petit France Chairman and entrepreneur Han Hong-sob. 


Chairman Han, who frequently traveled to and from Europe in his youth for his paint business, wanted to recreate the European culture he had seen and experienced to people in Korea. At that time, Han was more determined to carry out this dream because it was difficult to travel abroad unless there was a special motive. 


Considering the price of each relic and the cost of creating the place, it is not hard to guess how much affection Chairman Han has put into the villages.


The cost of the site alone is known to be around 10 billion won and the cost of the props is estimated to be 6 billion won. It is no exaggeration to say that most of the money earned in one's lifetime has been invested into this place.


▲ This photo shows Petite France ChairmanHan Hong-sob who was interviewed for this article. Even on the day of the interview, Chairman Han was touring the newly built Italy town and taking care of each exhibition halls. (Yonhap)


In addition to the theme park nature of the Italian village, it also has characteristics of museums.

In particular, the da Vinci exhibition hall, which was built on a two-story scale underground of the building, has one of the best contents in Korea.

Based on Da Vinci's design, the workers have manufactured machines one by one and created a present version of the Italian polymath's past works.

Without a professional curator, the exhibition was organized as proposed by Chairman Han himself, and the end result is as perfect as most museums.


▲ This photo shows one of the display pieces installed within the da Vinci Exhibition. The display piece is an airplane built based on Leonardo da Vinci's designs. (Yonhap)


European villages located in various places near Seoul are drawing more attention from local tourists as the road to overseas travel is blocked by the novel corona virus.

The Swiss town of Edelweiss Swiss Theme Park in Gapyeong is also a replica of a mountain village in Switzerland.

It was originally a Swiss-themed residential house built for sale to the public. However, only a few residents lived there due to poor sales, and the remaining space is being used as a tourist destination.

It is called a "certified shot attraction" among young people because it blends with mountainous areas in Gyeonggi Province and European-style buildings to make them feel as if they are in Switzerland.


The efforts made to capture cultural authenticity 

Recently, places that deal with European culture in Korea are trying to capture cultural authenticity.



▲ This photo shows Corinne Foulquier, the manager of the Korean branch of France Tourism Development Agency, visiting Everland, a South Korean theme park. On June 1st, Corinne Foulquier visits parts of Everland that is decorated under the theme of Paris while talking to the officials of Everland. (Yonhap)


Everland, run by Samsung C&T's resort division, created a theme space last month based on a trip to Paris, France. In the past, it used to only create a European atmosphere, but this time, it worked with the French Tourism Organization in Korea to make considerable efforts to recreate the culture.


It created a street atmosphere of Saint Germain des Pres, which is famous for its historic cafes, bookstores and churches, allowing visitors to experience various French cultures, including a photo time with Parisian costume actors and outdoor performances with French sensibilities.


Chairman Han Hong-sob, who has a deeper affection and awareness of Europe than anyone else, expected that this process will broaden the understanding between Korea and Europe and lead to the spread of cultural exchanges.


Chairman Han said, "While the culture of our own country is great, it would be nice to learn more about Western culture. Since Korea's 'Hallyu' culture is now spreading worldwide, it will be meaningful for us to learn cultures from around the world and create a more developed culture."




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