Many miners were brave industrial workers who endured the bad air underground to dig up coal in the dangerous blind ends of mine shafts during times of cold and hunger. Mining towns flourished from the 1960s to the 1980s, as much as the black soot that densely covered the miners’ faces each day. As the residential environments changed in the 1990s and the major source of fuel shifted from briquettes to petroleum and city gas, the prosperity of mines gradually faded, like a briquette with a completely burned body. Samtan Art Mine was not an exception. It used to be Samcheok Tanjoa Jeong-am Mine, which operated for 38 years since 1964 and shut down in 2001. Twelve years later, in May 2013, Samcheok Tanjoa was reborn as a culture and arts complex that is part of the local culture regeneration project to bring life back to the local communities that have been depressed since the mines were shut down, and to awaken cultural sentiments. The mine, which is a living history and memory of the industrial era, was creatively recycled instead of being modernized.
Samtan Art Mine is largely divided into Horizontal Shaft 850, Samtan Art Center and Rail by Museum, Restaurant 832L, and an outdoor garden. Horizontal Shaft 850 refers to the altitude of the mine, which is 850 meters above sea level. Here, the old mine shaft is preserved. The yellow coal wagon by the shaft and the “Daddy! Be Safe Today” inscription are eye-catching. The former office building has been remodeled into Samtan Art Center and has a unique trail where the visitors start on the 4th floor and descent all the way to the 1st floor. This place exhibits the artworks of contemporary artists without removing the old shower booths, restrooms, and boot wash. It is interesting that modern and old spaces coexist in this venue. The 4th floor houses a lounge café and an art residence, whereas the 3rd floor has CAM (Contemporary Art Museum), Samtan Museum, and a resource room that preserve the 40 years of Samcheon Tanjoa. The 1st and 2nd floors have Mine Gallery, Children’s Art Museum, and an art shop.
Rail by Museum, which is connected to Samtan Art Center, used to be where all the coal mined in Samcheok Tanjoa was gathered. It is the symbol of Samtan Art Mine, where a gigantic windlass stands tall. The sculpture of three red flowers that stand silently amidst the grayish area delivers a rather saddening resonance. The Exit Rail beside the Museum leads to the space outside with the Garden of Memory, which cherishes and remembers the miners who were sacrificed in the mines, and the Cave Winery in the horizontal shaft. Restaurant 832L, so-named because it sits 832 meters above sea level, used to be a factory building that fabricated and repaired mining machines, but has been transformed into a vintage restaurant with the touch of an artist. Outside the development style that dug up and removed the old spaces, the breath of regeneration blown into the old mine has created a new cultural space that cherishes the history and art of mines. Now, it is bringing warmth to the local region not as a place that digs up coal, but as a place that digs up culture and art.