Ibike Korea People-to-People Program



Photo essay: Busan Walking Tour


Walking tour: Sample the sights of this modern South Korean city.
Points of Interest: Gwangbok-ro, Jagalchi Mrkt, Gukje Mrkt, 40 steps, Yongdusan Park & more.

Busan Harbor Busan boasts a population of 3.5 million but you hardly get a feel of that.  The city is broken up by forested hills and water ways.


Busan Iinternational Film Festival Square at night Sculpture celebrating Busan International Film FestivalSculpture celebrating Busan International Film FestivalThis walk starts at PIFF Square, named in honor of the Busan International Film Festival, which started in 1996 and has been getting bigger every year, since. There are a variety of architectural and art features in the area that celebrate the film festival.
City spot sculpture, Gwangbok-ro, Busan sculpture of boys on a light pole, Gwangbok-ro, Busan City spot sculpture, Gwangbok-ro, BusanFrom there we turn the corner and walk down Gwangbok-ro (Independence Rd), originally a stream, by 1895 it was so polluted that it was covered. During the Korean War many artists relocated to Busan in fear of the communists oppression. A lot of artists settled in Gwangbok-dong, Nampo-dong and Donggwang-dong and continued their production despite economic hardship. These neighborhood emerged as a hub of cultural activities and continued to play that role for several decades until the area was gentrified into "Fashion Street" around the turn of the century.  One focal point of Gwangbok-ro is City Spot, which has a sculpture of people and birds, and an exhibit of dedications to Busan from its sister-cities around the world.  There are a half-dozen other interesting sculptures along the street, including a couple boys who have climbed a light pole.
Rope, Nets and Floats Market, Busan Rope, Nets and Floats Market, BusanContinuing on you get to the Rope, Nets and Floats Market. Who knew that there were so many kinds, colors and sizes or rope, net, traps and floats.  I suppose the fisherman take it for granted.
Nampodong Dried Fish Market, Busan Dried squid, Jagalchi Mraket, Busan Roots and herbs, Nampodong Market, Busan Nampodong Dried Fish Market, Busan Nampodong Dried Fish Market, Busan Nampodong Dried Fish Market, Busan

Around the corner the dominant merchandise changes to dried fish. Who knew that there Nampodong Dried Fish Market, Busan Nampodong Dried Fish Market, Busanwere so many colors, sizes and varieties dried fish.. It turns out that sea weed, fish sauce and mushrooms are also part of  this category.  We such a variety of dried fish it is had to do the market justice with so few pictures.

Seagull-winged, Jagalchi Mraket, Busan

Seagull-winged, Jagalchi Mraket, Busan

Live fish, Jagalchi Mraket, Busan Live fish, Jagalchi Mraket, Busan Art / sculpture, Jagalchi Market, Busan Seagull-winged, Jagalchi Mraket, Busan

sculpture, Jagalchi Mraket, BusanLive fish, Jagalchi Mraket, BusanThe dried fish market transitions into the live fish Jagalchi Market. The building is distinctive because of its is seagull-winged shape roof.  Both in the front and the back of the building there are art pieces with fish as the central theme.  Inside there are thousands of tanks and dishes with water flowing everywhere and the fish watching the people go by.  Jagalchi Market started in the 1950's, during the war, as a market for black market goods.

knife sharpeners, Jagalchi Market, Busan Live fish, Jagalchi Mraket, Busan Live fish, Jagalchi Mraket, Busan Fish mongers need good sharp knives so the fish market had several knife sharpeners (right) spread around.
Fish monger, Jagalchi Mraket, Busan Free octopus, Jagalchi Mraket, Busan  Fresh octopus, Jagalchi Mraket, Busan Fresh mackerel, Jagalchi Mraket, BusanBack outside, there are not as many tanks of live fish, but there is a wide variety of fresh fish (snappers, mackerel, octopus, ell, rock fish, grouper, tuna, clams, etc.)
Fresh fish, Jagalchi Mraket, Busan Fresh fish, Jagalchi Mraket, Busan Fresh fish, Jagalchi Mraket, Busan Fresh fish, Jagalchi Mraket, Busan
There are so many different kinds of fish with so many different sizes, shapes, colors, and textures, that you feel compelled to keep taking
Fresh clams, Jagalchi Mraket, Busan Fresh red snapper, Jagalchi Mraket, Busan Live fish tank, Jagalchi Mraket, Busan Dried squid (cuttlefish), Jagalchi Mraket, Busan
pictures so that you can do it justice, knowing that you will always be leaving something out.
Fish mongers playing go on a break, Jagalchi Mraket, Busan Walkers stopping for a picnic at Jagalchi Mraket, Busan Pier, Jagalchi Mraket, Busan
The market is not all work and no play; a fish monger stopped for a game of go, a group of walkers was relaxing on the pier sharing a picnic and along one of the wharfs a number of men were watching and waiting for their fishing poles to spring to life, indicating a fish on the end of the line.
Bupyeong-dong Market, Busan, Korea Bupyeong-dong Market, Busan, KoreaEnough of the fish for a while.  Away from the wharf the is fifty square blocks of retail, consisting of Bupyeong-dong Market and Gukje Market.  Signs and banners on the sides of building advertise the diversity of businesses. The signage can get to be quite hectic and by North America standards would be considered visual pollutions.  But for now, in Korea, it is the character of the cityscape. 

Bupyeong-dong MarketA major period of growth was the early 1950's when the influx of refugees increased both the number of street merchants and consumers hunting for bargain-priced products and food. In the end of 1954, a devastating fire dealt a blow to the burgeoning economy of the area, as it engulfed the whole refugee area and left a number of people homeless.  Gukje Market is still considered the place to go to find the best prices in Busan.

Snacks cart, Bupyeong-dong Market Snacks cart, Bupyeong-dong Market Bulk food, Bupyeong-dong Market Bulk herbs, Bupyeong-dong Market Bulk grains, beans and peas, Bupyeong-dong Market
There was section of the market for snack food, a section for dried beans and grains, a section for fresh vegetable, a section for furniture, a section clothes, a section for cooking utensils, a section for shoes, a section for jewelry, a section for crafts, a section for hardware, and the list could go on.
Hanbok shop, Bupyeong-dong Market Hanbok shop display, Bupyeong-dong MarketHanbok shop display, Bupyeong-dong MarketHanbok shop display, Bupyeong-dong MarketIn the Hanbok district, custom hanboks are made in dozens of shops.  There seem to be so many styles and some colors and kinds of fabric that it is possible that no two hanboks in the country need be alike.  If you want one all you need to do is pick you style and fabric -- probably not an easy task given so many choices. From the look of the intensity of the decision making in the hanbok shops, great consideration was being giver to every detail.
Ginseng seller, Gukje Market, Busan Ginseng, Gukje Market, BusanGukje Market still has a variety of street merchants.  This woman is selling fresh ginseng. In the foreground (left) are some tubs of rice. Behind the ginseng seller is a merchant with hair products and household goods, and other vendors stretch down the block, on both sides of the street.
Bicycle shop, Gukje Market, Busan Gukje Underground Market, BusanI would be remise if I did mention the bike shop in the Gukje area. Even more fascinating is the Gukje Underground Market, which is full of venders and runs for several hundred meters under the road.  That is where you will have to go to find the high-end, home decorating boutique (right).
Book street sculpture, Busan Book Street, Busan Book Street, Busan Book street sculpture, Busan
Book Street sculpture, Busan Another unique asset of Busan is Book Street.  Some of the stores are pack front to back, floor to ceiling and wall to wall with books.  In this era when books are become increasingly archaic, the street is impressive both for the volume of books and the number of people -- though it was clear that people were buying a lot of books and a lot of browsers carried cameras.  Even if a picture is worth a thousands word, I have a long way to go with photos to cover everything that is covered in the books of Book Street.
Book Street, Busan Book Street, BusanBook Street, BusanBook Street, BusanBook Street, Busan
(no photo) Busan Modern History Museum: Built by the Japanese, it was originally the Busan branch of the Japanese Overseas Development Company (started in 1908 implement policy of Japanese economic domination -- buying rice and selling industrial products.) After is was ceased by the US in 1949, it was used as the Busan branch of the United States Information Service (USIS) until 1999. The lower right corner of the front of the building was firebombed by anti-American demonstrators in 1982. It now houses exhibits on the history of Busan (below).
Busan Modern History Museum Busan Modern History Museum Busan Modern History Museum Busan Modern History Museum Busan Modern History Museum
Busan Tower, Yongdusan Park, Busan Democracy Park and memorial, BusanYongdusan Park was established to remember the refugees who once called the area home, the war that devastated their lives and the 1954 fire that swept through Gukje market and dealt their burgeoning economy a sever blow.

The park is now dominated by 300m Busan Tower, which gives a clear view of Democracy Park on the peak to the north.

Student artists, Yongdusan Park, Busan Student artists, Yongdusan Park, Busan Men's Club, Yongdusan Park, Busan Men's Club, Yongdusan Park, Busan Girls hanging out, Yongdusan Park, Busan
Even on a weekday afternoon the park was full of people; there was an art class of young girls scattered around, groups of older men sat and pass the time together, and some teenager girls were probably do the Korean equivalent of hanging out.
Love Lock Heart, Yongdusan Park, Busan Love Lock Heart, Yongdusan Park, BusanLove Lock Heart, Yongdusan Park, BusanThe Love-Lock Heart is a very sweet and romantic installation:  Couples attach there names to a padlock and then lock it to the heart or the fence behind it.  There are a hundred feet of fence with  thousands of locks hanging from it.  Only a cynic would ponder whether the couple come back and cuts the lock off as a ritual if they break-up. [There is a similar fence at Namsan Tower in Seoul.]
Girls in the art museum, Yongdusan Park, BusanWe met this group of girls in an art exhibit.  The exhibit wasn't drawing a lot of attention during our visit, but it was a gorgeous day outside.
Monk feeding the birds, Yongdusan Park, Busan Monk feeding the birds, Yongdusan Park, BusanMonk feeding the birds, Yongdusan Park, BusanOn another occasion we met a couple monks who spent more than a half hour feeding the birds.  I don't know if it was a one-time event or a frequent ritual, but they took some pictures of their activities themselves (left).
On a clear day it is worth the price of admission to take a trip to the top of Busan Tower to ponder the layout of the city and the landscape beyond.
Panarama of Busan from Busan Tower, Yongdusan Park, Busan Panarama of Busan from Busan Tower, Yongdusan Park, Busan Panarama of Busan from Busan Tower, Yongdusan Park, Busan Panarama of Busan from Busan Tower, Yongdusan Park, Busan Meteorological Agency Building, Busan
The five view above are from the tower.  From left to right: The first is the area that was largely refugees following the War.  The second photo is looking south.  By 2020 it the center of it will be dominated by a 125 story building. The third photo shows a small part of Busan Harbor, one of the largest in Korea.  The reddish high-rise, in the forth frame, that is unique for its Korean-style roof, is a hotel that is popular with Japanese tourist. The last photo is interesting for its 'invisible' building.  The building is certainly clear enough in the photo and it stands out for it art-deco architectural styling, but it isn't identified or highlighted on any maps.  It is the meteorological agency and the building was built early in the period of Japanese occupation.
40 Gyedan, 40 Steps Cultural Street Mother and Children, 40 Steps Cultural Street Carrying Water, 40 Steps Cultural Street

Relaxation of a Father, 40 Steps Cultural Street

Korean Popcorn Vender, 40 Steps Cultural StreetGenerally the Korean War created a lot of refugees across the country. Specifically, because Busan had been spared any fighting, it was a heaven and several million refugees headed there. One area that they settled, with makeshift and substandard houses, from hill to hills, were the slopes above "40 Steps" (40 Gyedan).  40 Steps was the way down to the city to find food and try to make a little money for survival. 40 Steps Cultural Streets is now remembers the struggles and good times of the refugees who lived in the area. The art includes (Railway Rd) The Gate of Peace, Korean popcorn vender, train tracks, Mother and Children, Children carrying water, Railroad Crossing Square and (Coastal Rd) Relaxation of a Father, Wharf Square and Sora Gyedan (spiral stairs).
Accordian player, 40 Steps Cultural Street Coastal magpie, 40 Steps Cultural Street Wrapped pole, 40 Steps Cultural Street, Busan Sora Gyedan (spiral stairs), Busan Stairs, Busan

Korean Popcorn Vender, Busan, KoreaOccasionally, you can still find someone making popcorn in the traditional way.

Korean artist are great about creating interactive art, and Koreans are great about interacting with them.


40 Steps Cultural Center, Busan

The 40 Steps Cultural Center is part of the neighborhood nostalgia. On 5th floor of the Service Center building is an exhibit show history of Jung-gu from before 1876, during Japanese colonial rule, the period of the Korean war, and the life of refugees in the 1950's. The 6th floor exhibit shows the history of Waegwan from the 1407 to 1876, Nampo-dong Theatrical District and more.

Preparing wedding dresses, Busan, Korea Print shop, Busan, Korea40 Gyedan is still a working neighborhood.  The most common business is print shops (right).  There were a half-dozen shops with presses whirling away on one block.  That makes it the print-shop district.

The most interesting undertaking was the seamstress preparing wedding dresses (left).  To get enough room the dress were hung from a rod outside and were twice the height of the average Korean.

Cargo bike, Busan Cargo motorcycle, BusanOld cities often have narrow street and Busan is no exception.  Narrow streets call for specialized vehicle to make deliveries.  The cargo bike (left) and the cargo motorcycle (right) may not be glamorous, but the are practical.
Beyond the 40 steps the city is decidedly less pedestrian friendly.  But if you venture on it is not too far to Chinatown and Busan Station.
Chinatown gate, Busan Chinatown gate, BusanChinatown is at most four blocks (one block in each direction emanating from a central intersection), but most of it is in the one block with the gate, two statues and canopy.  Beyond that there seems to be very little that is Chinese.  The characters on the gate are Rae-Rae-Kang-Ryung, which wish all people coming and going through the gate good health and peace.
Sculpture of a character for the Chinese Opera, Chinatown, Busan Sculpture of mother and child, , Chinatown, BusanSculpture of a character for the Chinese Opera, Chinatown, BusanBa wang and Bie Ji (left) are two characters from an old tradgic Beijing Opera. At the end of the opera Ba wang is defeated in battle, Bie ji, his concubine commits suicide and then Ba wang also kills himself as his only escape from misery.

At the other end of the social spectrum, a mother carries a child on her back and a load on her head.

Chinatown, BusanPlaying Go, Chinatown, BusanA pastime in Chinatown seems to be to play and watch Go.

Interestingly, the two very common scripts here, beside Hangul, are Cyrillic and Greek (for a small example, see the sign above the go players head.)

Busan Station, Korea Busan Station, Korea Busan Station, Korea Busan Station, Korea
Busan Station is elegant with a welcoming plaza in front.  Among its other features is a large sculpture/fountain, some pig-planters (I don't get the tie-in) and a sleek steel sculpture that emulate the bullet train(s).
parade with traditionally dressed musicians, Busan, Korea Lion dance team, BusanWhile we were back at the hotel to freshen up a small parade with traditionally dressed musicians and a couple of lion dance teams passed by.  The parade was part of the opening of the Jagalchi Festival, an annual two-day event, in October, that highlights the local fresh seafood industry. After the opening ceremonies, which includes a parade of workers dressed like fish and other sea animals, visitors can watch several events (boat launch ceremony, fish dance exhibition, and fireworks), participate in contests (eel relay race, foreigners' cooking contest, and Jagalchi ajuma pageant), listen to music on several stages and, of course, eat fresh seafood, drink soju (rice wine).
Performance of Busan One Asian Festival, 2016 Additional festival keep being created. 2016 was the first year of the Busan One Asia Festival. Will it be an annual event? Activities were scattered through the month of October at numerous venues, literally in all corners of the city. Events included a music market, street performances, a cultural conference, special night lighting displays, production of an episode of the "Running Man" TV show, and production of a historical drama TV show. Linked events include: BIFF, Busan International Fireworks Festival, Asia Song Festival, Busan Biennale, Busan International Food Expo, Seomyeon Medical Street Festival, Busan Chinatown Special Zone Cultural Festival, and some other performances.

The stand on the right sells at least five varieties of "hasdogeu" (핫도그, hotdogs). This kind of take-away window seem to becoming increasing popular in Korea.

After-work patrons, Sindonga Fish Market After a long walk it is time for a hearty dinner. 

Let's checkout the Sindonga (Live) Fish market.  Sindonga Fish Market is a vast hall filled with individual vendors with their own fish tanks and tables.  It is very popular with the after work crowd who find raw fish and soju a pleasant combination.

Sindonga Fish Market sea worms, Sindonga Fish Market Squirts, Sindonga Fish Market Prawns, Sindonga Fish Market Live fish, Sindonga Fish Market
The menu is in the vats and tanks: (left to right) sea worms, squirts, octopus, shrimp, fish.
Preparing raw fish for the table, Sindonga Fish Market Cooking a fish, Sindonga Fish Market Digging into a meal for raw fish, Sindonga Fish MarketAfter you pick what you want for your meal it is freshly prepared while you wait.  The operative word here is fresh. Most of the creatures are serve raw, but there is an option to have some of the fish cooked.  Looking around there wasn't a lot of cooking going on.  This is the raw fish market anyway.
Eating raw fish and drinking, Sindonga Fish Market Raw (live) octopus, Sindonga Fish Market Sea urchin on the half shell, Sindonga Fish MarketWhen the octopus lands on the table it is still moving.  After the little pieces of tentacle have attached themselves to the plate they stop moving -- until you try to pry them off to eat them, in which case they wiggle frantically again -- even a half hour later.  For sea urchin on the half shell you only it the yellow custardy part.  It in fact has a custardy texture.
Mid-level hotel, Busan, Korea Mid-level hotel, Busan, KoreaThere must be a thousand hotels in Busan. The high-end ones tend to have fewer features (no in-room computer terminals, nothing in the mini-bar, pay-as-go business centers, less toiletries, plainer bathrooms, etc) and Western pegged price structures. Of coarse there are also the very economical dives, but these are getting fewer and fewer. In the middle are numerous hotels that are at the least spotless, bright, quiet, private and very comfortable, and for the price, luxurious. The rooms with have both a computer terminal and Wifi, the mini-bar will be stocked with a couple complimentary juices and bottles of water, on the counter is coffee and tea, the big screen TV has 100 channels of cable (but except for a couple movie it may be that none are in English), and they are stocked with every toiletry that male or female could possible need.

Lower Nokdong Greater Busan


Travelogue Main PageTour InformationTour mapRegister for this tour


Please contact us if you would like to be added to Ibike's mailing list or have questions, comments, corrections or criticism. (Also, please let us know how you learned about us and found this site.) Privacy policy.

  IBF Homepage           Ibike Programs            Ibike Schedule            Search

"Hosted by DreamHost - earth friendly web hosting"
Created by David Mozer
Copyright ?1993-2018 Ibike LLC. All rights reserved.