I love Busan – the people, the streets, the beaches, the sea and sand. My time in Busan has been empowering and transformative in a way that I couldn’t imagine before I moved here. I’ve become braver and more outgoing, made wonderful friends, done exciting things, and seen beautiful places. I’ve learned to find joy in simple pleasures since moving to Busan and every day something in this wonderful city makes me smile.
I moved my life overseas to work as an English teacher. I lived in Gyeonggi-do for a year, and during that time I took four action-packed trips to Busan, the city I now call home. I’m not sure what initially drew me here, but upon arriving I was immediately taken with this dynamic city and knew I wanted to live here.
On that first fateful train ride, the architecture caught my eye: block houses and soaring skyscrapers whose colours seemed to take inspiration from the sea, an array of cool blues, sea-foam greens, and deep oceanic greys. The night lights glimmered, their reflections mirrored and transformed in the water. Touring the city, Gwangalli Beach quickly became my favourite place to visit since I was so taken with watching the glowing lights of the Diamond Bridge and walking along the sandy shore. These days I love to walk along the beach to the Millak Fish Market and peek inside the food tents before winding my way up the river to the impossibly shiny buildings of Centum City.
Busan may be the perfect mix of beaches, mountains, rivers, small town charm, and city attractions. I love how I can walk to the beach, or the mountain, or the subway in under 10 minutes. I love how the walls in my tiny neighbourhood are splashed with colourful murals depicting movie characters and Korean folk tales and how on the next block over the apartment buildings rise so high they seem to touch the clouds. I love that I can feel anonymous in Seomyeon or Nampodong as I squeeze past the buzzing crowds and yet whenever I go to pick up my dry-cleaning, the owner seems genuinely pleased to see me, entertaining me as though I’m a guest until the next customer arrives and thus earns her undivided attention in that tiny tin-front shop. Only in Busan has picking up my laundry become an event to enjoy instead of a trivial burden. Every day here offers me something new that I didn’t know I was looking for.
Many of my fondest memories stem from magical moments in Busan. I remember a vendor at the Jagalchi fish market squirting water at me, laughing at my surprise and clapping her pink-gloved hands, giggling over my puzzlement with the foreign sea creatures she was selling. Rather than feeling embarrassed, I found myself laughing along with her, eventually purchasing and enjoying my first slippery bites of sannakji, wriggling octopus served fresh. I remember gasping in awe at the towering stone carvings of Seokbulsa hidden deep in the woods, and hearing the gentle, tapping prayers of the monks mixed in with the crashing waves at Haedong Yonggung-sa, Busan’s water temple. I remember lit-up lanterns for Buddha’s birthday lining the streets, majestic fireworks festivals, and long days at Haeundae Beach. I remember seeing movies and meeting people from around the world at the Busan International Film Festival and the opening of the Cinema Center, its spectacular light show delighting viewers of all ages. I remember cheering for the home team at Sajik stadium, inflating an orange plastic bag in support of the Lotte Giants and perching it goofily upon my head. I remember taking my first dip in the icy tub at the bathhouse and I remember wrapping that little towel on my head to watch TV in the jimjjilbang with hundreds of other spa-goers on a relaxed Saturday night. I remember falling in love with art all over again at the Busan Biennale.
While many couples proclaim their love for one another by writing it on a padlock and locking it on the fence by Busan Tower, I will make my love known here. Busan, I can never thank you enough for all that you have given me. You have changed me and made me better and braver. You will always have a special place in my heart, my home of sand and sea and the place where I learned to explore the world and reimagine myself.
Runners Up in the ‘I Love Busan’ Contest! (Click their names to download their entries)
Preliminary Judges: Evaluated 55 essays and narrowed down to the top 12.
- Paul Haggerty, professor at Pusan National University,
- Jeff Liebsch, managing editor of Haps Magazine
- Chris Tharp, Haps columnist and author of Dispatches from the Peninsula: Six Years in South Korea.
- Jake Macdonald, professor at Pukyoung National University, the host of World Window on BeFM.
Contest flyer is here