Experiencing Kenya

Taejeong Woo, known in Kenya as “Jay”, is a BA International Relations student at the University of Nairobi and an Intern at KOTRA Nairobi.

When did you begin your studies in Kenya?

I began my studies in June 2017. But because there were a couple of strikes, an election week and many demonstrations, I have barely studied yet. (Tears!)

What do you love the most about Nairobi?

Nairobi’s weather is the best in the world. The weather here has always made me feel so relaxed, ridding me all the stress from work and study. Breathing the air, the air breezing all over my face, is just my favorite thing!

What are some of the culture shocks you encountered upon landing in Kenya?

I had some shocking experiences. Upon my arrival in Kenya, I could not carry my entire luggage, so I asked for help from an employee at JKIA. He out rightly replied, “If you give me two dollars, I will help.” I wondered why he would ask for money to help me carry stuff within a short distance!

Another experience I had was being mugged in the taxi on my way to Westlands. A guy put his hand through the car window, grabbed my phone and ran away. I was SPEECHLESS. These are not culture shocks per se but rather a side of Kenya that I had not expected.

Do you get in touch with other Koreans in Kenya? Are you close?

Yes, I met a few Koreans. Since there are only two Korean students in University of Nairobi, I barely get the chance to get close to many. But, I have met some Koreans from the Korean Church in Kenya and we are quite close.

What advice do you have for Koreans who would want to study or visit Kenya?

At UoN, there are some Professors who are frequently late to classes for almost an hour. I guess this is called “Kenyan time”. Also, there are times when we can write notes for three hours non-stop. And then the black outs!

Surprisingly, UoN students do not rely   too much on anyone, neither professors nor school to get things done. Even if they don’t have proper textbooks for themselves, they will find a way out. When there is no electricity, they will pull out their phones, light them with the passion to learn. They find their own way to study rather than taking a back seat and making excuses.

These things I have learned here and I can only call them “legit Kenya”.  Here, in Kenya, you might face one of the most unbearable difficulties that you wouldn’t want to encounter. However, you will learn more after overcoming them. You will see yourself grow up. You will see the real Kenya. You will get people to help you from the beginning of your journey.

So, why not pay a visit?

Summer School in S.Korea

From the 26th of July to the 21st of August 2017, Virginia Chege attended summer school at Sookmyung Women’s University in Seoul. She narrates her thrilling encounter.

South Korea, Seoul in particular, proved to be all and more than I thought it would be. I can honestly say it was the best time of my life. I attended a summer school program at Sookmyung Women’s University courtesy of Korea Foundation. It was a program aimed at teaching students from all over the world Korean language and Korean culture. Of all the twenty eight students who attended the program, two were from Africa; a lady from Senegal and I. This in a way caused me to stand out. Korean people were   fascinated by my hair, which technically was not mine given that I had plaited my head with braids. It was funny, a tad ironic, how excited they were when touching my hair.

I took two classes; Korean language and Korean Arts/Crafts. Since almost all the students were knew to the language, the lecturer resorted to teaching us by way of song and games. It was lots of fun but felt a bit like kindergarten. The Korean Arts/Crafts class stirred the creativity in me. I got round to making several jewelry pieces; from bracelets, rings, pendants to more others. I also learnt various threading techniques and metal cutting.

Throughout my stay, I enjoyed authentic Korean cuisine; samgyeopsal, bulgogi, tteokboki, kimchi, japchae, kimbab, bibimpap and mandu just to name but a few. Korean food was very spicy but I made do. I also tried many coffee drinks inspired by the serious coffee drinking culture in that country. The level of technology in Korea made life so convenient. All the systems ran very efficiently, from the transport system to the internet speeds. Using the subway to move from one place to another proved easy.

Korean people were  kind and willing to offer help, more so to foreigners. There is no limit to the number of fascinating places one can visit in Seoul. For a start, visiting Gyeongbokgung Palace was a great experience. The sense of history and cultural heritage   it hoisted  was wonderful. It is amazing how well  all the buildings within the palace have  been  kept all over the years. At the DMZ zone I  viewed North Korea from a distance. It was really nice to relive history going down the tunnel dug by the North Korean soldiers in an invasion strategy to South Korea. Later, we  experienced performing arts at the Nanta Performance at Myeongdong . Nanta is a theater performance where performers  use food as their props. Viewing various beautiful art pieces was a good way to unwind after class. We did this at the MMCA Art Gallery and the Seoul National Museum.

Chilling along the banks of Han River enjoying chicken (and beer for those who drank), known as ‘Chimaek’ was very relaxing. Of all the places, Lotte World Adventures was the best  I  visited. All the roller coaster rides, speed trains, air balloons and candy did the trick. If I could relive all those moments with all the amazing friends I made, I definitely would.

 

 

JUSTICE KITAEK LEE

The late of August 2017, Justice Kitaek Lee (이기택),  a senior Justice of the Supreme Court of Korea visited Kenya. We met him and had the following interview.

Is it your first time in Kenya? How about Africa?

It is my second visit to Africa and my first in Kenya. I visited Egypt a while back.

Why did you come?

Africa is not well known in Korea so my interest came out of that realization. In addition, I personally see Kenya as a key African representative. With regards to my work, it was a dream of mine to meet students in the legal field receiving education to lead Kenya’s future entities. I had also heard about Korean studies being offered abroad in rare places, especially in Africa and was therefore curious to visit the University of Nairobi, Korean Studies department.

How do you find Kenya’s judiciary compared to the Republic of Korea’s judicial system?

Right now I don’t have a lot of understanding on the Kenyan judiciary but in Korea the court decides on its own working budget. The courts decide on their expenses by themselves in an independent manner. However, the Kenyan courts are governed by a committee when  they want to pay something. The committee makes decisions on court budgetary matters.

What are some of the comparisons you’ve been able to observe between the two countries’ judicial systems?

The two countries have a history of colonization and although negative, we cannot really do anything about it. I want to see both countries work fiercely to keep the principles of an independent judiciary.

Are there some areas where Kenya and Korea can cooperate to improve their respective judicial systems.

Korea is collaborating with a lot of countries at the moment including Kenya by learning from each other’s advantages. I think it is also a good opportunity to help Kenya in the process of teaching law since Korea is advanced in legal matters. The two countries could legally and positively use each other’s advantages in carrying out business together.

For example, from a personal experience, there was a case in 2002 where the Code of Civil Procedure was amended (it is still being implemented). The process of that amendment had begun through some groundwork that was made in 1995. What I had wanted was to learn from as many countries with more knowledge in Code of Civil Procedure as possible and who could introduce it to Korea. But then I only managed to get information from a few countries because it was so difficult to get it, as the other countries were somewhat cautious and reluctant. Suppose Kenya and Korea work together on developing the Code of Civil Procedure and I take all of Kenya’s good points and put them in the Korean law then later it will not be good so I think this is part of the reason why I only managed to get help from a few countries.

You’ve come at a time when the Kenya’s Supreme Court has just cancelled the presidential elections, a milestone for any African country. What are your thoughts about the transformation of Kenya’s judicial system?

No comment. There are political laws that apply for every country, and there can be issues with these particular laws everywhere. I just hope people can learn from it and get better.

From the talks you’ve had with the faculty of Law at the University of Nairobi, and the interactions you’ve had with some of their students, how can you compare Kenya’s legal education system and that of Korea?

Until 2008 Korea used to use the undergraduate system similar to Kenya’s but in 2009 we switched to the American graduate school system, and hence the differences. From my meetings with the UoN law students, I personally felt the students were very advanced about legal matters. I was very moved.

Are there any areas you think Kenya can emulate Korea on judicial matters?

Korea underwent a lot of changes and development in a short period of time. In these changes, it included the judiciary positively changing the society. So in Korea’s judiciary, there is this helping ability. Kenya’s may also have or develop a similar helpful ability.

Korea International Cooperation Agency, Nairobi

KOICA Alumni

Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) is the Republic of Korea’s aid agency. Daisy Jemutai met up  with Annie Njoroge, the head of Projects at KOICA and this is what they talked about.

Daisy: Kindly tell me a little bit about yourself.

Annie: My name is Annie Njoroge. I joined KOICA in 2014 as a Project specialist having done my masters in Development studies. My interest in joining KOICA was based on my passion for project management in relation to community development. Currently I am in charge of KOICA projects at the Kenya Office.

Daisy: What does KOICA do?

Annie: As an aid organization it is primarily focused on two areas; the first is project implementation,that is in line with the Sustainable Development Goals. The second area is training of personnel, aimed at fostering Human Resource Development.

Daisy: So, what areas has KOICA  Kenya  delved  into.

Annie: We have had 12 local projects on education, water and health. The Kenyan Office is a champion on water development and therefore most of its projects are water based. Some of our water project areas are  Migori, Asembo, Naivasha, and Garissa (a diameter wall project). We have an ongoing project in Bungoma that is supposed to end by February 2018. Once the Bungoma water project is completed, it will benefit approximately 150,000 people. It will also benefit the neighboring Mt. Elgon region.

Daisy: What do these water projects entail.

Annie: The projects are mostly about water treatment plants.  It is a collaboration of both County and National government, and KOICA. What happens is that the county government and the Central government’s implementing body (on the ground) usually write a proposal, that is then taken to the Ministry of Water. The ministry reviews it and later  forwards it to the National treasury before  it ends up at the Korean Embassy.

Daisy: Tell us more about the other projects KOICA has done in Kenya.

Annie : We have done various renovations and constructions for schools. In Nakuru  we built one school and did two renovations. We built Kitengela Sub county Hospital, did a couple of renovations last year and supplied the hospital with equipment.

 

Daisy: How does KOICA pin-point the area that is in need of a project.

Annie: We don’t limit anyone when it comes to applying. Usually when a proposal is sent our way through the ministry, we review it and then hand it over to the HQ who look at the viability of the project -in terms of the budget, the need, and  the capacity of the office handling the project. Proposals sent are usually on a government to government basis.

Daisy: So, what projects are currently on-going?

Annie:

  1. Water development project – Improvement of water supply system in Bungoma County.
  2. The Primary school environment and ICT project – with the help of the Ministry of Education. It is running in Ngu’ndu Primary school in Kamulu and Uhuru Gardens Primary school in Langata where we are building classes and an ICT center.
  3. The National Industrial Training Authority Capacity Development Project – we are renovating their Mombasa Center. We intend to buy equipment for the institution.
  4. Kitengela Sub county Hospital renovation.
  5. Mother Child health program.

Daisy: When the former President Park Geun-Hye visited Kenya, she was involved in the establishment of the Mother-Child Health Program. How is the project going?

Annie: The mother-child health program is currently running and is being implemented in Kajiado County. It is an outreach program for both mothers and children, done 4 times in a month.  Our team (on the ground) does the implementation, in terms of treatment and diagnosis of various diseases. The program does not limit men though, as they can be treated as well. I would therefore label it more of a community development project, aimed at helping all the people in need.

Daisy: Let’s dive into KOICA’s other nascent area- Human Resource Development. How is the Kenya program running.

Annie: KOICA has 3 programs in training; Short term training that runs for 2-4 weeks, County Specific Training- where a county requests for a specific course, and Long-term training – a Masters program. Our HQ sends courses  that are offered in a particular year. Our work in the Kenya office is to receive these courses and send them to the department of Public Service Management, who then circulate them to specific ministries. It is the ministries that nominate the trainees and KOICA  finances the entire training including the flight, accommodation and meals.

Daisy: Where are these trainings carried out?

Annie: I would say that 90% of the trainings are  done in South Korea, although there are inland trainings where experts from Korea are send to Kenya to conduct the courses. The same thing happens with projects. For every project there are three trainings; the Policy makers training, Middle level managers training and an inland training.

Daisy: How many people have been impacted by these training programs and how successful have they  been?

Annie: Over the years we have managed to send over a thousand people for trainings. Personally I would say the project is successful because one is able to experience expertise that they had not gone through in Kenya. The cultural interaction opens one’s mind to new initiatives, and those who have gone to Korea have come back to implement the new things in their respective counties.

Daisy: There is the KOICA alumni, who are they?

Annie: The KOICA Alumni are people who have gone through our training programs and have come back to Kenya. They have various activities carried out quarterly. They go to schools to offer counseling in terms of career development and infrastructural support.

Daisy: Does KOICA support their activities ?

Annie: Yes. They simply tell KOICA the activities that they have for the year and are given a budget to run them. KOICA alumni are more independent, as they run there  own activities but in association with KOICA Offices.

Daisy: For your mission statement, as KOICA, what are your hopes for Kenya?

Annie: Considering that South Korea was once a poor nation, we hope that Kenya would rise from a developing country to a position where they can offer grants and aid just like South Korea at the moment.

Interview by Daisy Jemutai

 

 

 

 

Korean Studies at the University of Nairobi

From the year 2010, the Academy of Korean Studies (AKS) supported a networking project that was run by the Faculty of Arts in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHSS) at the University of Nairobi (UoN). Three years later, it gave way to the establishment of Korean Studies at UoN. Housed in the Department of Linguistics and Languages, Korean Studies admitted its first students in September 2013.

This course majorly entails teaching Korean language, literature, culture, philosophy, economics and history. There are two programmes on offer: a Certificate in Korean Language, Literature and Culture; and a Bachelor of Arts in Korean Studies. Most of the core courses are taught by Prof. Yuhjin Park, the Korea Foundation (KF) Visiting Professor to UoN. The certificate course covers only eight months and admits students from any field of study. It therefore has a huge student enrollment. There have been four classes so far, and the numbers have steadily been going up.

On the other hand, the BA course covers four academic years. In each of the eight semesters, students take at least two core units on Korean Studies. The first cohort of students will graduate on December 15, 2017. They will be the first to graduate with a BA in Korean Studies from an African University. The numbers admitted to the BA course have also been rising with time, as Korean Studies gains popularity each day.

This popularity is in part the result of the many extracurricular activities students of Korean Studies take part in. There exists a vibrant students association, the Korean Studies Students Association (KSSA). Students taking any programme in Korean Studies can register as members of KSSA. The association is student led, but has the KF Visiting Professor as the patron. KSSA members take part in at least one activity in a semester.

The Korean Studies students

From July through December 2016, the association had Korea in Our Village, an activity funded by the AKS. During this six month’s project, Korean Studies students interacted with the Korean community in Kenya, shared Korean language and culture experiences with pupils and students of different institutions in Nairobi, and learned a thing or two by visiting Korean companies and institutions in Nairobi and Limuru. Experiences from Korea in Our Village are published on a YouTube channel (Korea in Our Village) and on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Koreainourvillage/.

Korea Quarterly Magazine is another KSSA project as members collect news on matters relating to Kenya and Korea. This magazine will run for at least one year, and is also funded by AKS. Such activities as this have solidly improved the state of Korean Studies in the university. They have also become avenues of marketing Korean Studies at UoN both to students and to the public community. As students like to study courses that are fun as well as promising, Korean Studies continues to become an option every year.

The main stakeholders of Korean Studies at the University of Nairobi are AKS, KF, and the Korean Embassy in Kenya. While AKS kick started the project, KF provides a Korean Language teacher among other academic support. The Korean Embassy, on the other hand, has always supported both academic and extracurricular activities in Korean Studies at the university. There have been three speech competitions and one Quiz on Korea, all organised and closely supported by the Korean Embassy in Kenya. Winners of these competitions walked away with huge prizes, including chances to visit Korea.

In recent times, a Korea Corner has been established at UoN. This is a Korean culture experience room prepared by the Embassy. It has provided the perfect place for other students and staff of the university to come in contact with Korean culture, hence boosting the image of Korean Studies. We have also had the support of Korean Companies in Kenya, like Samsung and LG which have opened up chances for students to work and learn more about Korea. KOICA has also given students a chance to go to Korea for a period of up to four months, in which they engage in an intense language programme.

 

University of Nairobi’s Korea Corner

Korean Corner is a room for Korean cultural experience established by the Embassy of the Republic of Korea to Kenya at the University of Nairobi back in 2016. Initially, the plan was driven by the dream to put up a teleconferencing room where E-classes for Korean Studies could be held. The sponsor, Korean Foundation, had in mind a room where students could enjoy Korean cultural exchange at its visual best. It is also meant to display the history of South Korea; as well as allow university staff and students of the Korean language to have a preview of the richness that Korean culture embodies. The corner hosts beautiful framed photos, ceramics, a humongous LG TV screen and masks that elaborately showcase the history and culture of the Korean people. Its establishment marked a milestone in bringing Korean culture to Kenya.

Upon entering the room, one is met by wall pictorials, each of which embodies the myriad aspects of Korean culture. At the entrance one is met by the hands of a lady strumming ‘Gayageum’, one of the most popular Korean traditional musical instruments. At the opposite is a bride in ‘Hollyebok’ resplendent ‘Hanbok’(한복), a display of the Korean traditional wedding gown. The attire’s multiple colours do echo the vibrant ceremonies the Koreans practice to today. Among the other framed photos is the ‘Four Seasons of Korea.’ What is captivating about this picture is the way each season is shown through its colours, giving the viewer a vivid imagination of how warm and sunny summer is; how fiery autumn can be; how beautiful and white snowy winter is; as well as the flowery splendour that is spring. Another highlight is the Hanok (traditional Korean house) painting that gives  much insight into the kind of housing that is native to Korea.

Koreans can use the room to display cultural items. There are different ceramic pieces themed ‘Inspiration from the soil’ exhibited in the room. They are in display courtesy of the collaboration between the University of Nairobi and Prof. Kim Sung-jin, a ceramist. Walled masks and miniature hanboks are also found in the room. All the pieces of art are a sight to behold. Korean Corner truly stands as a room for cultural exchange for all who visit.

Korean Studies Resource Center

A visit to the Korean office allows us to come across a rich library of books, journals, magazines, movies and music albums; each of which affirms the nature of Korean culture. Books range from history collections, poetry, cooking, food, politics, among other genres. If you’re preparing for a TOPIK (Test of Proficiency in Korean), you’ll find books here. For anyone who wants to indulge in the onset and future of K-Pop and Hallyu wave, well, this resource centre has got a lot to offer. Needless to say, students and staff alike interested in any Korean culture can find a lot of material here.

The student handbooks are written in English and Korean to enable the student to study without having an instructor around. They come with audio CDs to give guidance for improved listening and speaking. Being a lover of K-Pop music, I find the growing in-size collection of K-Pop albums an attraction. EXO, TWICE, Block B, Beenzino, Crush, San E, Sam Kim, Wheesung, Urban Zakapa, Lee Hi among others can be found on the shelves. If these do not tickle your fancy, well; there is Korean traditional music and classical music to entertain. The library may be small in size but it has profound information that caters to the whims and needs of everyone.

Story By Eva Wanjiru

Photography by Joshua Nyantika

 

Student Life In Seoul

We meet Emilly Achieng, A computer Engineering Student at Gamchon University, Seoul.

When did you begin your studies in Korea?

I came to Korea about two years ago. And because I had studied Korean Language in Kenya and did the Proficiency test, I straight away began my major.

What do you love most about Seoul?

Seoul is one of those places that offers a global environment to learn and grow. It has diverse people from all walks of life and meeting them or just being around them is a great chance to develop interesting perspectives in life. And of course there are many amazing places to tour. It is rich in culture and history. And I won’t forget the internet speed that is second to none.

What are some of the culture shocks you encountered upon landing in Korea?

I used to have that habit of trying any food I am presented with, untill one time we were on a table, a group of us enjoying a meal. And then afterwards, one just inquired if we knew what we had eaten? We were all like, ’no please!.’ We didn’t want to know anything beyond the delicacy that we had just eaten! Let me just say, the answer was not good.

How do you relate with other Kenyans in Korea? Are you close?

Yes, I have  quite a number of friends that we began the journey with in Nairobi and still now our friendship holds here. Also, I have met quite a number in Korea and we keep in touch always. I enjoy writing. I was an active contributor to the KCK Jambo Kenya Magazine column when the magazine was still up and running. So yes, I do relate in many ways with Kenyans in Korea.

What are some of the challenges that you’ve encountered studying in Korea?

All through daily encounters with something new and strange that requires time to adapt. Also, being asked honest questions that are not-so-pleasant at times.

What are some of the interesting aspects?

A baby is said to be one year old when born here. I find it interesting.

What advice do you have for those who want to study in Korea?

Everyone’s experience is different. Mine was never easy. I tried quite a number of schools before landing on one. That took a lot of time. Your experience could be different from mine. But once you make that grand decision, nothing should ever stop you. Never walk back.

Korean By Birth But Kenyan At Heart

 

Jauquelyne Kosgei speaks to Prof. Yuhjin Park, the Korean Studies Professor at the University of Nairobi.

The Bridge: For how long have you been in Kenya?

Prof. Park: I have been in Kenya for exactly four years; I arrived at the end of August 2013. I started teaching at UoN soon after.

The Bridge: Having been in Kenya for four years, what can you say of your initial feeling and impression compared to your experiences over time?

Prof. Park: Not much has changed, really. At first, I was surprised to find a very blue sky and huge birds flying in the air. These are not things you will usually see in Korea, and I was very fascinated. Until now, I still find Kenya’s natural environment and weather very captivating.

The Bridge: Please tell us about your academic journey.

Prof. Park: I enrolled for my BA degree in Ewha Womans University in 2000. I did not graduate until 2006 though, as I spent one semester visiting Beijing, China, and a whole academic year focusing on extracurricular activities. I majored in Chinese Language and Literature, and minored in Korean Language and Literature and also in Asian Studies. For three years after my BA, I worked in Korean Broadcasting Station (KBS) as an assistant writer. I then went to Shanghai, China, where I taught Korean Literature to Koreans studying there. I then returned to my alma mater where I did my Master of Education between 2010 and 2012. Soon after, I applied for the post of KF Visiting Professor, and I was fortunate to be hired. And here I am.

The Bridge:  So, was teaching always your dream career? If not, when did you consider being a teacher?

Prof. Park: Actually, I wanted to be a writer when I was in high school. I always loved to read novels and poems. That is why I studied Chinese and Korean literature. In fact, I took more literature units than linguistic ones! However, teaching Korean Literature in Shanghai, I realised I could make a good teacher. I found it easy and fun communicating with students.

The Bridge: Talking of which, we talked to some of your students. All of them say you are an excellent teacher. What do you think you do that would make them see you so?

Prof. Park: Thank you! I think that is because I am friends with them besides being just a teacher. I have made them very comfortable with me, and I always have time to talk about their family, relationships, and sometimes their dreams and aspirations. That may be the reason.

The Bridge: What is the one thing your students do not know about you?

Prof. Park: Uh, nothing! I think my students know everything about me.

The Bridge: What is one day like for a teacher?

Prof. Park: In my case, I don’t go to school every day, but I would prepare handouts for my students, have a class for 2-3 hours, give a make-up class for those who need it, and sometimes have coffee or pizza with my students. For now, I am also writing a paper for an upcoming conference in Egypt.

The Bridge: What is the one expectation you have of (your) students?

Prof. Park: I expect them to study extra even without homework assigned to them. They are not primary or high school kids anymore, and should study independently. Also, as a language teacher, I don’t expect them to rely on Google Translate as a tutor, especially for basic expressions we have learned in class. Trust me, Google Translate can sometimes generate weird sentences, some of which I have received.

The Bridge: Having said that, what is the best thing about your students?

Prof. Park: Generally, I find my students very enthusiastic about Korean language and Korea in general. They are always excited and actually show up for Korean events like the Korean Film Festival, the Korean Food Festival, and the Korean National Foundation Day. They put so much energy into making these occasions a success, and I am happy about that.

The Bridge: It is obvious that you have blended into the Kenyan culture now, but what is the most shocking thing you ever observed in Kenya?

Prof. Park: I have gone to a few clubs here in Kenya, and I am still shocked about the dance styles here. Put simply, there is too much hip movement in Kenyan dance.

The Bridge: What hobbies have you adopted in Kenya?

Prof. Park: These aren’t new hobbies, really, but I love reading comic books and playing the violin. I also like playing mobile games, with Clash of Clans as my current favourite. I am actually the leader of my clan at the moment. I also love going on holiday sometimes, with Mombasa and Zanzibar being the best destinations to experience the Indian Ocean, and Maasai Mara the best reserve to observe the animal species.

The Bridge: What are your plans for the future?

Prof. Park: I plan to keep teaching at UoN for a few more years, which tells you that I am happy to be here. I am currently developing my doctoral thesis to be presented at UoN.

 

Busan !!

1 Comment

Uncategorized

haeundae beach- Artwork by Sakina Taherali

By Kwamboka Ngoko

Formerly known as Pusan, Busan is South Korea’s most populous city after Seoul. During the Korean War that lasted from 1950-1953, Busan was one of only two cities in South Korea not captured by the North Korean army within the first three months of the War. As a result, the city became one of the refugee camp sites for Koreans during the war. At the time, it served as a temporary capital of the Republic of Korea. Since then, like Seoul, the city has been a self-governing metropolis and has built a strong urban character.

Busan is a  very popular cultural destination among both local and international tourists. It is known for international conventions as well as sports tournaments, constantly attracting large crowds all year long. Also, it boasts of being home to the worlds largest department store, the Shinsegae Centum City.

Teeming with cobalt oceans, lush mountains and endless fares, it’s a city full of surprises and a laid-back vibe that makes it the perfect base from which to explore farther afield in South Korea. Bursting with mountains and beaches, hot springs and seafood, South Korea’s second-largest city is a rollicking port town with tonnes to offer. From casual tent bars and chic designer cafes to fish markets teeming with every species imaginable, Busan has something for all tastes. Rugged mountain ranges criss-crossing the city define the urban landscape, while events such as the Busan International Film Festival and a world class convention centre underscore the city’s desire to be a global meeting place.

So, what are the top things to explore while in Busan?

BUSAN ARCHITECTURE

Gamcheon Culture Village

Representing Busan in the southeast of the country, Gamcheon Culture Village is a mountaintop shanty town that was redeveloped as an art project by students in 2009. Since then, it has become famous for its street art, which crawls down staircases and splashes over old houses.

This historically-rich, mountainside cultural quarter is one of Busan’s most intriguing sights. Originally settled by refugees during the Korean War, tiny hillside homes were constructed by followers of a fringe religious group that believed the universe operates on the basis of a yin-yang dialectic. For decades, the community remained isolated, almost forgotten. However today, this one time pocket of poverty has been transformed into a community of renewal and sustainability. The art students installed a collection of clever decorative pieces best discovered by zigzagging through narrow alleys, peeking around corners and searching out new views from out-of-the way benches creating such a delightful experience.

Gwacheon Culture Village.

Gwangali Bridge

It is the longest bi-level bridge over the Pacific Ocean in South Korea. In addition to providing a quick way to get around, the bridge offers breathtaking views of nearby attractions, including the endlessly unfolding ocean, Oryukdo Island, Hwangnyeongsan Mountain, Gwangalli Beach, Dongbaekseom Island, and Dalmaji Hill. Equipped with thousands of LED lights, the bridge showcases a beautiful lighting exhibition at night that changes with the seasons. The bridge offers a majestic  beauty when combined with nearby attractions during the day and a romantic atmosphere at night, attracting many residents and tourists.

Beomeo-sa Temple

Beomeo-Sa is a top notch buddhist temple in Busan. This magnificent temple is Busan’s best sight in my opinion, with the  early dawn chanting hauntingly beautiful and  extraordinary. In spite of  its city location, Beomeo-sa is a world away from the urban jungle, with beautiful architecture set against an extraordinary mountain backdrop. Usually, it is a busy place on the weekends as both local and international tourists flock to admire it. First, second and even third visits are often never enough.

UN Cemetery

This is the only United Nations cemetery in the world and is the final resting place of 2300 men from 11 nations, including the UK, Turkey, Canada and Australia, that backed South Korea  in the 1950–53 Korean War. There’s a moving photo exhibit, along with knowledgeable volunteers who share stories about the people in the images. It is a great place to learn about Korean history and culture.

NATURE

Haeundae Beach

South Korea’s most famous and beloved beach is Haeundae which is about  2.2km-long.  The beach is enveloped by a wall of commercial and residential development, granting these buildings a stunning view.  Evenings are an ideal time to stroll the beachfront path set against a glowing backdrop of Gotham-esque highrise buildings and, further down the coast, paved trails that yield a panoramic perspective of the breadth of Haeundae’s expansive urban landscape. The beach is a popular destination for revelers over the weekends and endless festivities which mark the Busan calendar all year round.

Taejongdae Park

This is a natural park of Busan  with magnificent cliffs facing the open sea on the southernmost tip of island of Yeongdo-gu. It is a representative visitor attraction of Busan with dense evergreen trees and several facilities for tourists such as an observatory, an amusement park, a light house, a cruise ship terminal. For anyone seeking some quiet and solace, or even a romantic picnic Taejeongdae is always the best idea.

FOOD

Jagalchi Fish Market

Big, bold and salty, Jalgalchi Fish Market epitomizes Busan. An incredible array of seafood, from big squid to red snapper, an all manner of sea creatures with slithering tentacles is served, both alive and dead. The traditional atmosphere coupled with and freshness of the fish make this a staple Busan experience.

Local Delicacies

Hotteok, a traditional Korean snack, is a small pancake with a brown sugar and cinnamon filling. Busanese hotteok is particularly special thanks to the addition of seeds known as ssiat hotteok. The pancake is grilled in hot oil, stuffed with nuts and seeds and served in a paper cup.  It is chewy, crunchy, piping hot,  and delicious, capturing the Busan flavours. Seriously, no foodie should visit Busan without trying.

Sulbing is yet another favorite every foodie should definitely try!  Served in a heavy earthenware bowl, sulbing is shaved frozen milk topped off with soybean powder and almond slivers. A splash of condensed milk adds delicate sweetness and liquidy goodness. One bowl comes with several spoons and, like most good things in life, is best enjoyed with companionship.