BUSAN, South Korea – There are several things I look for in a bar and Billie Jean touches upon nearly all of them. The atmosphere is cozy, brick and varnished wood walls hung with sparse light, the music set at just the right volume so I can carry a conversation, a good burger and a steak, a regulation size pool table, darts and live music on the weekends.
The bar was opened in early May by a couple of guys that many of us around Busan and the world already know. One is movie star Dae Han-ji, most famous for his role as Oh Dae-su’s best friend in the internationally acclaimed film “Old Boy.” Don’t be surprised if you step into Billie Jean one night and see him behind the bar serving drinks when he is not on location filming.
The other owner is Dany Kang, founder of several bars around Haeundae such as Starface and Neo. Dany said he left a lucrative job in real estate to go in to the bar business simply for the fun of it.
“I like to party and enjoy new friends,” the long shaggy-haired Dany says with his characteristically friendly smile. “Once I started doing it I fell in love with the business.”
Han-ji was Dany’s friend in high school, and when Dany approached him about opening a bar together he jumped at the idea. And lets be honest, there are advantages to having a movie star friend – especially when you co-own a bar together. On any night, you never know which Korean celebrity might saddle up next to you and order a drink from the expansive menu.
While most people expect to pay more for everything near the beach, the prices at Billie Jean are quite reasonable. A draft will run you $4 and a premium beer about $7. If you really want to impress your friends, you could throw down $450 for a bottle of Dom Perignon if that suits you. There is also a good assortment of pub food, including a solid $12 cheeseburger, or a very large steak served with green beans and french fries for $15. Also, ladies drink free every Friday night until 11pm. Yes, that's right, FREE.
Dae Han-ji was in the internationally acclaimed movie, Old Boy, along with Choi Min-sik
If music is your scene, you don’t want to miss the live shows on the weekend. Dany knows everyone around town and, as a long time supporter of the music scene, he prides himself on bringing in different acts from Busan’s diverse music scene every weekend. “At my last bar, we went three months without having the same band on stage for a weekend show,” he says.
Most recently, at the Haps Issue 14 launch party, Dany booked Second Hand Rose, one of China’s top acts, to play for the event. Last year, the band was so well-liked by Irish rockers, U2, that they asked them to open for them in China on their next tour.
While all the talk about Billie Jean to this point has been about what goes on inside, the outside deserves a mention. The seating is great when the weather is good. And with the smell of Billie Jean’s BBQ in the air and the smell of the sea – only 100 meters away – this newly opened bar is well worth a visit.
Getting there: With the Paradise Hotel at your back, head away from the sea on the right fork road. It’s about 75 meters up on your right, just before the intersection. For more infor check out there Haps page at: www.busanhaps.com/billiejean