"Well I'm living in a foreign country but I'm bound to cross the line
Beauty walks a razor's edge someday I'll make it mine
If I could only turn back the clock to when God and her were born
Come in, she said I'll give you shelter from the storm.”
BUSAN, South Korea — One of Busan’s most important landmarks for the foreign community, was opened back in the spring of ’96 by Kim Dong Ha. Listed in Lonely Planet’s ‘70 Things to Do in Busan’, Crossroads Bar in PNU originally began as just a quiet little place for Dong Ha to listen to music with some friends. Over the years, it has gained a reputation as a home away from home- friendly, comfortable, welcoming.
Busan Haps has gathered some insights from a few veterans and regulars as to why Crossroads has been so dear to our community.
I’ve been to every province and every major city in Korea and I have never experienced as comfortable and friendly an atmosphere as I have at Crossroads. It was the same with John Watson who says, “It was the first Western bar I went to when I came to Busan and Dong Ha always made me feel welcome. If I hadn't had Crossroads, I don't know where I would have met anybody”.
Many who have gone have been struck by how most friendly and willing to strike up a conversation everyone is. Jeffery Beattie stated that he “never needed a friend to meet up with on any given night. I've always had Crossroads.” Terra Mahar fondly describes it as “my living room, the place I met my ‘family’ for a few any night of the week”. Amy Lee says that “as a Korean, it’s a comfortable environment where one doesn’t feel so out of place with foreigners”.
Most point to Dong Ha as the reason for the atmosphere. Jeffery says that “Dongha has been a friend to many of us here for years, with a welcoming attitude that attracts what we often refer to as the 'family' we've found here”.
It’s easy to take for granted the number of fun nightspots and different scenes in Busan nowadays, but this wasn’t always the case. Many old-timers remember when Crossroads was the only game in town. Johnny Ioannidis calls it “the launching pad for foreigner-friendly speakeasys in a town that wasn't always so hospitable."
Kim Dong Ha (left), the Godfather of the expat bar scene.
Bill Sharp recalls it as “the first foreigner friendly bar, it was the first to host live bands, and no longer were we required to buy anju (side dishes with drinks).” Another aspect that many point to is the music selection. Chris Tharp, who has been here for several years said that the great music was part of what made Crossroads special.
“The selection of vinyl is one of the best you'll find on this side of the Pacific- the tunes are terrific”.
Many commend Dong Ha on his willingness to play a great variety of tunes and exactly what you want to hear. George Khoury fondly recalls a night in search of some delta blues and was pleased to have Dong Ha accommodate him. Along with the great music, the atmosphere is just relaxed and open for conversation. Tharp adds that iit a “small space that encourages mixing, one of the only bars in town that encourages banter.”
In short, Tharp gives Dong Ha’s first bar the highest praise: “It's an eminently cool, welcoming space, and, in my humble opinion, is easily the best joint in Busan.”
Along with great music and conversation, Crossroads was the first place that encouraged live performances. What started with a few teachers with guitars eventually became the city’s first open mic night.
One of the early regular shows was Angela Crebbin & Friends on Monday nights. Angela recalls it as “an easy place to ‘get into the zone’ since the crowd were loving and appreciative. It was home for a long time”.
Violinist, Patrick Carle, values the sharing of music among Dong Ha and patrons as well as the performances- “Crossroads has always been about the music. I’m very happy to hear live music there and have been honored to play along. Easily my best memory of Crossroads is the night I proposed to my wife there.”
As a live venue, open mic night on Thursdays is looking up with the arrival of new host, guitar-phenom Robert Coates. So, get on out to the Crossroads, a bar that's made history, and make a little history yourself.
This Friday, April 8th, Crossroads will host its 15th anniversary party. Owner, Kim Dong Ha says that he’s still happy to have the place and it will keep him forever young as he gets to meet great people and share great music. Let’s honor the man and the place that started it all.
You can read Dong Ha's 2009 interview with Ben May here.
come to the crossroads
it’s a wonderful place
in which beer and liquor can be stuffed in your face
you’ll have a good laugh
you’ll meet some good folks
if you come while i’m there
i might even tell jokes
it’s open at 7
and it closes when it should
read into that what i think that you would
the vinyl collection is certainly a sight to see
and if you ask super nicely they might let you peruse
but if you scratch them shits we won’t be amused
so come for the music, the liquor, or beer
but i personally promise you’ll stay for the cheer