The Scenery on the Road, the Scent of the Sea in Busan’s Alleyways

Written and photographed by Kim Dong-woo

The Scenery on the Road, the Scent of the Sea in Busan’s Alleyways
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Busan! It is truly a city of a thousand sights. One finds oneself trying to fit more and more places to visit on one’s itinerary. Right when you exit Busan Station, cross the road to find “Jangseonghyang,” a Korean-Chinese restaurant featured in “Oldboy,” or “Hwaguk Banjeom,” featured in “Nameless Gangster: Rules of Time and New World.” Once you are full, head to Sanbok Road, a road that exemplifies the history of Busan, to start your journey in Busan. Take care, however, as your plans may unravel in the view of the city and the charming alleyways that bear the scent of the sea.
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Sanbok Road is the best place to get a sense of Busan’s history. The houses cluttering on the slope feel like an art installation, created through the weary and poor lives of the war refugees and the dock workers later on. The road was created in the mid-1960s through the shantytown that occupied the slopes, thus allowing buses to ferry the residents to schools, workplaces, and their lives along the steep, snaking road. Over time, proper houses replaced the ramshackle buildings, and so did the neighborhood begin to change. The “Historical Diorama,” located at the midpoint of the slope toward Democracy Park, is an artistic representation of the area’s history. It is home to four structures, each exemplifying the themes of “jomang” (gazing into the distance), “namgo” (tracing the history), “eungsi” (gaze), and “jeonmang” (prospect). These themes speak to Busan’s nature, culture, modern history, and future, and the will contained within is completed with the view of the blue sea beyond. When one follows the road from the Historical Diorama upward, one arrives at Minju Park. This sculpture park, located at the summit of the mountain, is a popular hangout for locals. One sees games like baduk (go) and janggi (Korean chess) being played.
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Past this battle of wits and outside the exit to the side of the sculpture park is the book cafe “Mildawon Sidae.” “Mildawon Sidae” is a novel written by Kim Dong-ri in 1955 on a fictionalized account of the eponymous cafe, which became a hangout for displaced artists fleeing the Korean War. This cafe, inspired by the novel in turn, has recently become famous as having one of the best views in all of Busan. Take a seat by the glass window and enjoy your coffee with the view of the slow-moving ships in the harbor.
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Of course, coffee is best enjoyed with music. Go straight after leaving the cafe to find “Geum Su-hyun's Music Salon.” The Gimhae-born Geum Su-hyun, father of the conductor Geum Nan-sae, was an educator and a musician who taught for many years in the Busan area. He is the composer of the famous song “Swing,” a mainstay of music courses in Korean schools. It is said that Geum wrote the song in 15 minutes on a Sunday in 1947, with a flash of inspiration from a poem written by his mother-in-law Kim Mal-bong.

After the Korean Independence in 1945, Geum composed “The New Song,” a song sung widely by crowds in independence marches, and the song “August 15” the next year. Geum spent his later life publishing musical publications for the benefit of up-and-coming artists. “Geum Su-hyun’s Music Salon” today is furnished like a small study of a musician, as a homage to Geum’s sizable presence in modern Korean music. Daecheong Sky Observatory in front of the building offers a panoramic view of Sinseondae Terrace, Busanhangdaegyo Bridge, the Korea Maritime & Ocean University, Yeongdo, Bongnaesan Mountain, Yongdusan Park, and Busan Tower. The view is special even by Sanbok Road standards, so make sure to drop by and enjoy the view of the greenery and the city.
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  • The Scenery on the Road, the Scent of the Sea in Busan’s Alleyways2
  • The Scenery on the Road, the Scent of the Sea in Busan’s Alleyways3
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The road then leads to Daecheong-dong’s Colorful Village, a village that uses colors to express the uniqueness of Busan. The village uses even the manhole covers to create a unique atmosphere, much like an outdoor art museum. Past the stairs decorated with umbrella drawings to find Bosu Book Street. The origins of Bosu Book Street is said to be with a couple who fled the Korean War from the Hamgyeongbuk-do region, whose trade in old magazines and the like inspired others to come together to create the space over time. If there is a scent of knowledge and learning, it must be the scent that one finds in this street. Books arrive here, seemingly drained of life, to be revived and returned to the hands of people. Even today, Bosu Book Street shines with the undeniable value of the act of rediscovering what has been discarded.

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destination
  • Address

    Historical Diorama 93, Yeongju-ro, Jung-gu, Busan
    Democracy Park 19, Minjugongwon-gil, Jung-gu, Busan
    Mildawon Sidae 19, Mangyang-ro 383beonan-gil, Jung-gu, Busan
    Geum Su-hyun's Music Salon 22, Mangyang-ro 355beon-gil, Jung-gu, Busan
    Daecheong Sky Observatory 333, Mangyang-ro, Jung-gu, Busan
    Bosu Book Street 16, Chaekbanggolmok-gil, Jung-gu, Busan
  • Inquiry

    Geum Su-hyun's Music Salon +82-51-462-0243
  • Closing Dates

    Historical Diorama Open all year round
    Democracy Park Open all year round / Democratic Struggle Memorial Building Mondays, 1st of January, Lunar New Year’s Day, and Chuseok
    Mildawon Sidae Open all year round
    Bosu Book Street Closed on 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month, New Year’s Day, Lunar New Year’s Day, and Chuseok
  • Hours

    Historical Diorama Always open
    Democracy Park Always open / Democratic Struggle Memorial Building 09:00 – 18:00
    Mildawon Sidae Everyday 10:30 – 16:30
    Bosu Book Street Hours vary by store (most close around 20:00)
  • Service Fees

    Free of charge (payment required for book purchases)
  • Traffic Information

    Historical Diorama
    Exit 6, Busan Station, Subway Line 1 → Transfer to Bus 508 or 190 → Yeongju Samgeori, 3-minute walk (7 minutes by taxi)
    Democracy Park
    Exit 1, Choryang Station, Subway Line 1 → Transfer to Bus 508 at Choryang Market Entrance → Jungang Park ‧ Democracy Park, 6-minute walk
    Mildawon Sidae
    Exit 7, Jungang Station, Subway Line 1 → Transfer to Bus 86 or 186 at SC Bank → Busan Digital High School, 5-minute walk
    Geum Su-hyun's Music Salon
    Exit 7, Jungang Station, Subway Line 1 → Transfer to Bus 86 or 186 at SC Bank → Saedeul Mansion, 7-minute walk
    Daecheong Sky Observatory
    Exit 7, Jungang Station, Subway Line 1 → Transfer to Bus 86 or 186 at SC Bank → Saedeul Mansion, 7-minute walk
    Bosu Book Street
    Exit 3, Jagalchi Station, Subway Line 1, 13-minute walk
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