This is my third trip to Korea (outside of airports) and first time to Korea’s second city, Busan. It is famous for its port, the largest in Korea and fifth busiest in the world. The 3.6 million inhabitants are squeezed in many huge apartment blocks between the steep green hills and the twisting bays of the Sea of Japan. It is only 120 miles from Honshu, the main island of Japan.
I was here for a meeting of the Association of International Schools in Asia athletic conference. We meet annually to review the year and decide on changes for the following year (s). Our hotel was near the largest beach in Busan, Haeundae Beach, the trendy tourist beach and regarded as the “best” in Korea. There were a lot of tourists, mostly Chinese and Korean, but I heard a lot of Russian too. There were three cruise ships in the port and it is a regular stop for cruises in this part of Asia.
I always compare Korea to my current residence of Japan. In talking with a long-time foreign resident of Korea and Japan, he described Korea as a culture between China and Japan, but closer to China. I 100% agree with him. It is much louder and “grittier” than the quiet and refined Japan. I appreciate Korea’s connectivity – it may have the largest and fastest, free public wireless network in the world! Fantastic!
I only stayed for two nights but did get the opportunity to walk around the beach front and explore the Haeundae part of the city. The many stalls displaying aquariums live hagfish, a “slime-producing, eel-shaped marine fish” did not look appetizing, but were fascinating to watch. The old women in the morning selling the fishermen’s catch was the highlight of my run along the seas side. It felt a bit like Florida mixed with the Mediterranean, with many bars, restaurants and high rise apartments near the beach.
Busan is a pleasant city, but with all of East Asia, the population density is too much for my taste. We had a good night out at a Korean BBQ restaurant and walking around soaking in the hustle and bustle of Haeundae Beach. I have enjoyed my visits to South Korea and I respect what the infrastructure and standard of living the Koreans have built. They had a rough time with not only the occupation of Japan and World War II, but also immediately followed by the Korean War which has not technically ended. It is interesting to consider the future of North Korea, China, Japan and South Korea. I wish them peace and prosperity.