South Korea’s second city is often overlooked by western travellers in favour of Seoul, the ultra-modern capital in the north of the country, but it really should be firmly on the radar of those looking for somewhere warm and cultural to explore. What makes Busan a beacon of light in South Korea is its world-famous fireworks festival (forgive the pun!) that attracts spectators from around the world, but also its scenic coastal cliffs and forests, historic temples and tasty street side food.
South Korea’s second city is just a 2.5-hour journey from Seoul on the fast and efficient KTX high-speed railway, or less than an hour by air. Unlike most of the Korean Peninsula, Busan was largely spared the devastation caused but its legacy is still visible throughout this city of towering glass skyscrapers, record-breaking shopping centres, and famous meeting venues for heads of state.
Busan is a surprisingly large city, connected by a series of seemingly endless bridges that connect pristine beaches and quiet forested areas to the bustling central downtown areas. The city has no shortage of record-breaking attractions, including the world’s largest shopping mall, the world’s largest outdoor cinema, and the world’s largest festival. The unbelievably inexpensive metro system conveniently connects the main settlements to the train station and tourist areas.
United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Korea
Although Busan was spared from much of the large-scale bombardment that the rest of the country endured during the Korean, the city of the United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Korea. The sobering sight of 2,300 allied graves, of all different shapes, styles and colours spread over an area of 35 acres, is something that visitors to Busan simply cannot miss.
The only United Nations cemetery in the world attracts both veterans and sightseers alike all going to pay their respects to the many who fought for the democratic values of the South Korea of today. The graves are divided into 22 distinct sections, each denoting a different nationality that is buried in the cemetery. British gravestones stand in neat rows behind a stone lion, New Zealand graves behind a traditional Maori carved stone, Turkish graves in their unique Ottoman style, and Korean graves in their distinct tall, narrow style.
At one end of the cemetery you will find a polished marble wall listing the names of each and every allied who died fighting for South Korean freedom surrounding a water feature. The United States troops during, but they were all repatriated after the war back to America, and the second largest group of war dead were the British, with 1,177 who lost their life. Such is the feeling of comradeship, a number of veterans have declared that after they die, they want their ashes to be interred in the cemetery beside their fellow.
Unlike in the west, South Korean shopping is still dominated by its sprawling markets and hawkers selling the freshest seafood and freshly-cooked foods made-to-order. Jagalchi Market is the largest seafood market in Korea, with primarily older women selling crabs, fish of every size and shape, live octopus, starfish, sea cucumbers, giving it the nickname “Jagalchi ajumma”, the word ‘ajumma’ meaning middle-aged or married woman in Korean.