Busan is the second largest city in South Korea, and home to the country’s largest port. Its location allows the city to serve as the gateway to Japan and Eurasia. Busan is home to Korea’s largest mountain, Geumjeongsan, which is roughly 2,600 feet tall and one of the nation’s favorite hiking destinations. In the valley of the mountain sits a small community known as Sanseongmaeul, it is widely recognized for its barbecued goat meat. The country’s longest river, the Nakdong, also flows through the city into the Korean Strait. The river has played a significant role in Korea’s history as during earlier periods, many of the citizens established residences and towns along its winding route. The Nakdong also played a pivotal role during the Korean War for American troops, as it was a pinch point in establishing the Pusan perimeter. Busan was formally known as Pusan until 2000 when the Korean government entered the Revised Romanization period of their language development.
And while it is just the second largest city in the country at 3.5 million residents, it is home to the world’s largest department store. The Shinsegae Centum City is over 3 million square feet with a 60 tee golf course, driving range and ice skating rink inside. The structure measures 14 stories high with another 4 stories below ground as well. All of the floors are marble and crystal chandeliers line the store’s ceilings, giving it quite the posh atmosphere. But Shinsegae isn’t the only massive structure within the city, the Busan Sports Complex, originally completed in 1984 and updated in 1989 and 2002 for the Asian Games, is home to an indoor gymnasium, swimming pool and rill field, as well as tennis courts, baseball fields, lawn bowling fields, a gymnastic gymnasium and of course the main stadium. The architecture of the Asiad Main Stadium is based on the city’s ‘image’ with many curves built in to reflect the rolling waves that lap against the nearby shore.
Busan is not all about infrastructure as it has a vibrant culture as well. In Japan’s attempt to conquer the country in the late 16th Century, Busan was integral to stemming the tide. Busan became the temporary capital during the Korean War for three years, and it has been at the foundation of multiple democratic movements during: the Japanese occupation in the 1910’s; the revolutionary movement of 1961; the democratic movement in 1979; and the student movement of the 1980’s. Its history is full of important developments from the First Century onward. Around 42 A.D., the Gaya confederacy was born. It was one of the three kingdoms of Korea, along with Baekje to the west and Silla to the east. At that time, as the story goes, there were six eggs that descended from heaven, each is said to have born a king that would rule over the 6 regions of Gaya. Their rule persisted for 600 years, but the three kingdom system fell in the late 7th Century when Silla took over Gaya.
Today, Busan is known for its arts and protection of the surrounding natural environment. There are numerous art and film festivals, museums and parks that provide the people of Busan with expansive entertainment. The seventeen acre Yongdusan Park is home to a gallery and an aquarium, as well as 70 species of trees which makes it a popular tourist destination. Silla University researches the impacts of the maritime industry on Korea’s coastlines and leads public service campaigns on proper stewardship of natural resources. The city has been progressive for a century or more. Its focus on the future should be a model for growing cities around our Small World to adapt to changing times while valuing history, nature and culture.