A classic pub, bright red postboxes, two Beefeaters guarding the city hall and even a view of Stonehenge – it’s difficult to believe this traditional English village is in North Korea.
Although it could look like a sleepy hamlet in Wiltshire, it has been built on the scary edge of South and North Korea in a town called Paju, 30 miles north of Seoul.
The model education town is based on everything celebrated in Great Britain, the local pub even serves fish and chips and warm beer.
It is positioned just a few hundred yards from the mysterious north, where Kim Jong-un rules with an iron fist.
The hillsides of North Korea are visible from the top of the ‘English Village’, and hear the propaganda music blaring out all day long, as can be seen in our exclusive videos and photos.
Just a few miles north-east is the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ), which is the 2km space between the two Asian countries manned by the United Nations, and is often dubbed ‘the world’s scariest border.’
The border is reportedly plagued with over one million landmines planted in the area by Jong-un’s army.
The village also has a British-style police station, hospital infirmary and a Post Office, all quintessentially rustic England and closed most of the day.
There’s even an immigration office at the entrance, which is offering a ‘citizenship service’.
English musicals are shown 12 months of the year in the indoor and outdoor theatres.
Replicas of Beefeaters guard the castle walls and Tower Bridge, but the very best is in the car park, where a huge Stonehenge has been built in-between the parking spaces.
It’s official title is ‘The Gyeonggi English Village’ – is a place where, according to the website, ‘people can use the English language in a variety of contexts as well as experience English-speaking cultures. All this can happen right here in Korea.
‘The English Village offers a similar environment that students, families, and teachers might experience in a foreign country, all right here in our own backyard.’
Although tourists come to visit, most English-speaking people who come here are tutors, there’s over 700 on campus, who help to provide a traditional Brit setting while teaching the Queen’s language to locals.
A job ad for music teachers reads more like an advert for a Butlins holiday rep, stating: ‘Jobs fill your pocket, adventure fills your soul. You will be asked to use your head, heart, body and soul in ways you never have before. You may be writing, composing, choreographing, costume designing, building sets, and so much more. Not only will you have the chance to be on the creative teams for our musicals, you will also perform in them.
‘And that’s just 9-6. Past 6 pm, we run, we dance, we explore, we play rugby, we swim, we sing, we eat, we party, we plan trips, we celebrate birthdays.
‘This is a job for people who love theatre and who love life. If that’s you; read on.’
The Paju village campus, which measures around 278,000 square meters, was opened in April 2006.
Sadly, attendence has been low in recent years. The village is being renovated in a bid to entice more studets who fancy a taste of little England.
Two other similar English-style villages have opened up in Yangpyeong, west of Seoul, and one closer to the capital city.
TripAdvisor reviews are generally very good, with Choichest B saying in September: ‘The name of English village seem like visit England or Europe. Always have best short with architecture and art or decoration design. The weather was cool in Seoul. Very nice coffee shop available. Don’t miss to get new Passport for collect the stamp at English village.’
Claudia Hart, from Florida, agrees, saying: ‘I was in English Village last November to visit my son….. At Gyeonggi English Village, they have the unique opportunity to create, produce, and perform the own musical. Each year they produce three original musical theatre productions, three interactive mini-musicals, and two big musical revues (for Christmas and a Korean holiday called Children’s Day).
‘They also tour shows during the year which the perform in Korean schools throughout the Gyeonggi Province…they are very talented young people.’