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Korea

Sept 20 2008 – Busan

Busan

Across from the Busan express train station is a sign “Shopping area for foreigners”. Obviously a sign like this must be checked out. It was a strange area with a very different feel to it. It creeped both of us out. There is Russian writing on many of the shops and bars. One man yelled at me, asking me if I wanted a hair cut. One think I have read is that a hair cut in Korea is not always just a hair cut. I think we discovered where the Russian mafia lives in Busan today. There is a large influx of Russian into Busan because it is a major port.

After this experience we meandered to the Yongdusan Park which has the Busan tower and a statue to Admiral Yi who defended (successfully and unsuccessfully) several invasion attempts by the Japanese in the 16th Century.

The Jagalachi fish market claims to be the largest in Korea, and it may be, but I think the one in Seoul is more impressive. This one is scattered amongst several buildings and areas, some being quite modern, though some of the shop keepers are smoking while they work. There are also vendors outside the buildings selling their fish under the heat of the day, constantly adding ice to their fish.

We learned how young a democracy that South Korea is. Democracy Park commemorate the democratic and civil rights movements within Busan. Their struggle for democracy and unfixed elections carried on from the 1960s and up into the late 1980s. From some things I have read the governments still have some authoritarian tendencies. From there it was a short walk to a memorial to those Koreans that have died since 1948 defending their country, it is on a great site over looking the whole of Busan harbour.

Dinner was in Gwangen Beach area – beer, meat on skewers and a brownie. Dinner of champions. Their is a bridge here that is all lit up at night and is quite nice. We were reminded of how regulated we are home. In one area of the beach their were vendors set up with bottles of liquor (a decent enough selection) and you could just buy a bottle. Beer, wine, soju (local firewater) are all available in stores and you can drink anywhere.

The subway system is much easier than Seoul’s. It is not nearly as far to transfer between lines as it is in Seoul. Here it is more like Toronto – up a flight of stairs and you are on another line. In Seoul it can be a long walk (5 minutes) with many stairs in between lines at the same stop. One thing that is common is people who come on the trains to sell their wares. They move between cars shouting their pitch and showing their product. We don’t always now what they are, but some seem to sell a few things.

The reaction of children to us can be very amusing. Adults will look at us cautiously, not always sure what to do. A smile or small bow will often be reciprocated. Young children (3-5 years) are often stopped dead in their tracks when the see us (usually me – Bruce). They gawk for a few seconds then will often grab a parents leg and hide. Then they will look again and hide again. Some you can see are trying to figure out what to say. In one case a few days ago, the grandparent was trying to get the grand daughter to talk to us in English. I am sure the conversation was something like: You spend all this time learning English now is your chance. The girl never spoke to us. We did say ‘hi’ in both English and Korean but she ran off.