The marine capital of Northeast Asia

Danial Norjidi

Located on the southeastern coast of Korea, Busan is known as the marine capital of Northeast Asia.

Busan is the largest port city in Korea, and is famous for its beautiful beaches, international film festival as well as several other attractions in the form of food, entertainment and culture.

Members of the media from the ASEAN region recently had the opportunity to visit Busan and discover some of these attractions as part of a media familiarisation tour organised by the Busan Tourism Organisation.

CEO of the Busan Tourism Organisation Chung Hee Jun highlighted during a speech at a welcoming dinner for the familiarisation trip that Busan is famous for its tasty foods, especially seafood, which he highlighted is the “best in the world”.

He said that Busan has not only gourmet cuisine, but also street food, such as a fried pancake with toasted and caramelised nuts inside or a Korean style fish ball, to name a few.

A vendor at Jagalchi Market, Dong Yoon Keum. PHOTOS: MUIZ MATDANI
Noodles on sale at Gukje Market
ABOVE & BELOW: Gukje Market is filled with stalls and shops selling a variety of wares; various items for sale displayed at Gamcheon Village; and a street in Busan

Busan is known as the marine capital of Northeast Asia
Busan street during day time

Busan has also become popular as a filming location. Notable examples include Hollywood blockbuster movie from the Marvel cinematic universe Black Panther, which was filmed at Haeundae Beach – one of the port city’s seven beaches – as well as K-drama Fight For My Way, which starred popular actor So Jun Park and was filmed in a village in Busan.

In addition, Busan has a flourishing meeting, incentive tour, convention and exhibition (MICE) industry, having successfully hosted large international events such as the Asian Games in 2002, the APEC Summit in 2005 as well as the ASEAN-Republic of Korea Commemorative Summits in 2014 and 2019.

As part of the familiarisation tour, we had the opportunity to visit several locations around Busan, one of which was Gamcheon Village.

Established as a residential area in the 1950s, this village is now a world-class tourist spot in Korea.

It is a charming place to visit, with its colourful buildings and a twisting labyrinth of streets which winds through the houses standing neatly upon a stepped hillside.

As one treks through the village, are several spots along the way that provide beautiful views that stretch from the village’s many colorful houses through the city and all the way to the sea.

Another hotspot for visitors is the huge Gukje Market located in Manpo-dong, which can be roughly divided into several subsections, such as Food Street, Youth Street, Everything Street, Arirang Street and Vintage Street. At the market, vendors can be found selling wares ranging from clothing, bags and tourist souvenirs to accessories, traditional crafts and many more.

The market is full of street snacks including spicy glass noodles, sweet red bean porridge and spicy rice cakes, to name a few. Nearby the market is BIFF Square, which highlights the city’s legacy in terms of film, featuring the handprints of various filmmakers.

Dongbaek Island is another location we visited as part of the familiarisation trip. Located at the southern end of Haeundae Beach, Dongbaek Island is a beautiful place, with a thick forest of camellias and pine trees. The attractions at Dongbaek Island include a walking path though the aforementioned forest, beautiful coastal views as well as the Nurimaru APEC House.

Built on the island in 2005 to accommodate the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit held in Korea that year, the Nurimaru APEC House drew high praise for its unique and modern interpretation of the traditional architectural style of Korean jeongja (wooden pavilions).

It now displays photographs and records of the historic APEC Summit of 2005 and features a miniature of the building, as well as a souvenir shop with APEC-themed goods.

Climbing to the top of the island gives visitors a panoramic view of Nurimaru APEC House and the district of Suyeong-gu beyond the Gwangandaegyo Bridge.

Just next to Dongbaek Island is Bay 101, an emerging hot spot which is made up of a yacht club as well as cafes and a range of food options. Moreover, there is a gallery featuring famous contemporary designer brands.

One of the things that Busan is famous for is its amazing seafood. As such, a great place to visit in Busan is Jagalchi Market, which is a huge fish market. The CEO of the Busan Tourism Organisation shared in his welcoming speech that the Busan fish market is very popular among people from all over the world.

At the market, there is a multi-level building where where lines upon lines of fresh seafood can be found. There are also vendors outside who sell various live and dried fish.

One of the vendors inside the building is Dong Yoon Keum. Speaking to the Borneo Bulletin, he explained that he has been a selling fish for 25 years, and among the many types of fish he sells are flounder and halibut, and he explained that the market is busiest on Saturdays and Sundays. He highlighted that the seafood they offer is delicious, and added that he feels proud when international guests come to the market.

Another stop during the familiarisation tour was Busan’s Intangible Cultural Property Exhibition at the Busan Traditional Arts Centre.

According to information displayed at the exhibition, since 1967, Busan Metropolitan City has sought to designate intangible cultural treasures to preserve the extinction of traditional craftsmanship. As such, Busan is endeavouring to pass on its traditional heritage and protect its cultural assets.

The Busan Traditional Art Museum was established to preserve and achieve the wide recognition of intangible cultural treasures.

The exhibition consists of 10 craftsmen who have been designated by Busan and specialise in bell casting, ceramic making, paintings, footwear making, Zen art, seal engraving, wooden sculptures, kite making, copper seal engraving and shipbuilding. In addition, the work from a master craftsman of embroidery, another national treasure of Korea, is featured at the exhibition.

“The holders of Busan’s intangible cultural heritage have walked along a long hard path in their respective fields. The works to be featured are from those who have devoted their efforts to pass on the traditional arts inherited from previous generations, therefore their artwork attempts to express the spirit of craftsmanship that comes from the soul of Busan.”

It was shared that, through this exhibition, it is hoped audiences can enjoy the beauty of Busan’s traditional art and have the chance to be proud of the craftsmen’s spirit and traditional culture.

Speaking in an interview with the Borneo Bulletin, CEO of the Busan Tourism Organisation Chung Hee Jun said, “Busan is one of the well-known cities in Korea, not only from the high-tech business, but including traditional old-fashioned business as well.

“Also, Busan embraces seven beaches which is a very, very rare case in just one small city. So because of that, it’s very well-known and famous for the holidays, for the beautiful beaches and including very traditional old-fashioned marketplaces and that’s one of the reasons that Busan has lots of tasty foods, including fresh seafood.”

He said that, in addition to Busan’s natural landscapes, “we have four seasons and each season there are a variety of events like in Spring there are flower festivals, and in the autumn as everybody knows Busan International Film Festival is the biggest event in Asia.”

“There was a firework festival in autumn in Busan and also one of the well-known K-Pop festivals we call BOAF (Busan One Asia Festival),” he added, noting that the G-Star, an annual computer and video game trade and consumer show, is also held in Busan.