Since 2007, a mixed and diverse group of foreigners and Koreans have met in Seomyeon on Sunday mornings, because they have questions. They have questions about their friends, about their jobs, about politics, society, sex, love, death . . . they question everything. And when they get answers, they question the answers, too. This is the Busan Socrates Cafe, and if you’re the kind of person that prefers hard questions to easy answers, this might be the group for you.
Eight years ago, the Busan Socrates Cafe was started by literature teacher Kim Lee Homme, as an outlet for philosophical musings. Since then, even after Homme’s departure from Korea, the group has met every Sunday at 11:00, and has never canceled a meeting. One reason why is because it’s very informal: there is no commitment, no official membership. Participants are free to come whenever they feel like it, and nobody minds if someone skips a meeting or three for whatever reason.
The drop-in, drop-out policy has led to an eclectic group. Yes, there are many teachers. But there are also doctors, entrepreneurs, and artists. We’ve seen a librarian, a cinematographer, and a police officer find common ground. One of the best things about the group is that it fosters open and honest communication between people who might not have the opportunity for an open exchange in their everyday lives. Listening to the thoughts and opinions of someone who is well-read, well-traveled, and highly intelligent, but from a very different perspective than yourself, is fascinating. If anyone travels abroad seeking intercultural dialogue, this is the place to be.
Every meeting is run the same way: we have a list of questions submitted by members. Anyone can submit a question. The questions range from the classic questions of ancient philosophy (“What is justice?”) to more contemporary concerns spurred by current events (“Is torture ever okay?”). We vote on which questions we like, and decide as a group which question we’ll discuss that day. Then, we discuss that question . . . sometimes, we might even reach an answer! While the discussion can occasionally get a little heated, confrontational argument is very rare. Generally, the atmosphere is friendly and informal.
If you’re the kind of person that prefers to think a little bit deeper about the world around you, or if you like hearing thoughts and ideas from a different point of view, Socrates Cafe may be just what you’re looking for. All are welcome: all people, all ideas.
The Busan Socrates Cafe meets every Sunday, with a rotating moderator, from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm at the Seomyeon Starbucks, subway exit 10 or 8. You can find them on Facebook also.