2019 UN YOUTH CAMP: ‘Presentations’

Part of the activities at the 2019 UN youth camp in Incheon, Korea was to come up with action plans that would implement individual SDGs and help accelerate the implementation of the 2030 agenda. I was put in a vibrant group of 7 youth; Yoonjae Bae (Yonsei University), Hannah Jemaneh (SOAS University of London), Jiyoung Kim (Seoul National University), Jeonghwab Oh (University of St. Andrews), Juneyoub Han (Seoul National University), Suk In Jung (George Mason University) and Isaac Quashigah (Dankook University). We were to battle it out with five other groups.

We toiled for days before settling on a novel idea that went along with company  ‘pop-up stores,’ to address SDG number 4-Quality education.  Why a Pop-up store? A pop-up store is a temporary space run by a brand, aimed at opening up a physically engaging presence for customers to experience/gain more insight about a product. In our case, we had products/services we intended to share and sell to the public and in turn raise funds to promote quality education in underdeveloped areas.

From the products we had, there were two significant ones; coffee and study kits. The coffee idea predicated on the thought that some coffee farmers from underdeveloped areas have limited markets to sell their coffee to and because this eventually leads to low returns, they are unable to offer their children with quality education. Our pop up store was meant to expose their product to Korean people and help create a new market (Koreans love coffee), which would then improve their sales. From the profits garnered, they would then be able to offer their children with quality education, equip their schools with enough teaching and learning material and enhance the infrastructure.

Enter the study kit, ‘Kio-kit.’ Kio-kit -a digital toolbox, makes it easy for those in the remote/marginalized areas to access quality education. It contains 40 tablets pre-installed with quality school curriculum (sourced from advanced institutions) and then taken to schools in underdeveloped areas so that students there can have similar curriculum experience with those in ‘developed’ schools. It is produced by BRCK, a Kenyan based technology company.

So why have it in our pop-up store?

One Kit goes for 5,000 USD. That is pretty expensive for people, especially for those in the remote areas. Putting it in the pop-up store meant we could share the idea with the Korean public and help raise funds that would support the production of these Kits. The goal is to donate the proceeds to the producing company,  help cut on the production costs and therefore make the kits affordable. And scale up the production to boot and make it easy for many to access.

The funds generated at our pop-up stores were to be channelled to projects that sought to address quality education.

Anyway, to cut the long story short we won. We were among the best two groups.

For more, move over here  https://unosd.un.org/events/2019-3rd-sustainable-development-goals-youth-summer-camp .

Global Engagement & Empowerment Forum 2019

Video Credits: IGEE Institute for Global Engagement & Empowerment

From 14th of February to 15th, Yonsei university hosted a forum on sustainable development dubbed ‘global engagement & empowerment forum.’  The forum convened global leaders from the private and public sectors; experts, policymakers, members of academia, ( just to name but a few) to shape and advance discussions on key development issues.  It served as a platform for all stakeholders to collaborate towards accomplishing the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The opening ceremony was presided by  Kim Yong-Hak, President of Yonsei University; Heinz Fischer,11th President of Austria & Lee Mi-Kyung, President of KOICA- who gave opening remarks. The Keynote speeches were then given by Hon. Sebastian KURZ Chancellor of Austria and Hon. Park Won-soon Mayor of Seoul.

14th February 2019; Hon. Ban Ki-Moon offering his remarks. Credits: IGEE

The forum was a mix of several plenary sessions that covered myriad topics ranging from health, women empowerment, Sustainability & future cities, inter-Korean Economic Cooperation, desertification, financing SDGs, technology for future cities, academia and partnerships for SDG implementation, among others.

Other key presenters and discussants were Hon. Ban Ki-Moon, 8th UN Secretary-General; Ms Natalia Kanem, Executive Director of UNFPA; Mahmoud Mohieldin, Senior Vice President of World Bank Group; Helen Clark- former Prime Minister of New Zealand; Irina Bokova 10th Director-General of UNESCO, and many other influential leaders.

The forum was successful in its mission of promoting the gathering of stakeholders and actors to meet together, collaborate, and further the progress of not only SDGs but also the progress of people-centred development, as part of the 2030 Agenda’s five key elements: planet, people, prosperity, peace, and partnership.

In addition to Yonsei University, the forum was co-hosted by the Institute for Global Engagement & Empowerment (IGEE), the Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens, KOICA, and the Seoul Institute.

Thoughts on Modern Food

Image Credits: https://pixabay.com

Last Sunday I had an interesting chat with a friend who, a few weeks prior, had completed a Masters Degree in Medicine at a university in Seoul. The banter started with the commonplace complaints on weather, school(on my part) and then transitioned to her field of research and then cancer. Being an expert, she waxed lyrical about the emerging forms of cancer and how doctors have taken to research to combat its growth. However, it did not stop her from worrying about the possible causes. The increase in global warming (read depletion of the ozone layer) and the ‘chemical’ laced foods that keep filling up grocery stores by day have worried her sick. Her latter worry rung true when I bumped into this DW documentary, that questioned the hype we place on organically farmed foods. The recent cases of chemical abuse in the preservation and processing of foods in my country Kenya have made me sympathize with the hazardous trajectory we are now trudging on.

A couple of decades ago we ate healthy. A good number of humans ate foods straight from ‘healthy farms. The air, soils and water were less contaminated and so the food we grew sprouted ‘naturally with more nutrients to boot. Humanity relied less on ‘manufactured’ foods and since the demand and supply mechanisms did not work in their favor there was no room for (capitalist) opportunists to manipulate the production process for profiteering purposes. But fast forward to present day and things are different. With the increase in population, global warming and urbanization the market for ‘processed’ foods has widened. And because the demand has overpowered the other side of the see-saw, ‘opportunists’ are doing everything in their power to speed up supply to the detriment of people’s health. This sense of haste has taken over the farms and now conventional/inorganic farming has domineered over organic farming. When you walk into grocery stores or supermarkets to purchase ‘fresh’ food stuffs it is crystal clear that most are products of conventional means of farming.

To illustrate how ‘capitalism’ has influenced farming, let us look into this simple example. A farmer signs contracts with grocery stores, and because they are keen to mint much from the rising urban population they will demand that the produce is brought as soon. Left with no choice, the farmer yields into this pressure and turns to conventional/inorganic farming (which requires a high use of pesticides and chemicals) to speed up the production process. Turns out that the harvested fruits, vegetables and grains will carry traces of pesticide residues that will eventually enter our bodies. Because the cattle are fed on fodder/grass cultivated on pesticides, milk is not spared either. Do not get me started on broilers and pigs.

How about the little organic farming going on? Danger lurks too. It is noted that somewhere in Europe when conventional farmers spray their farms, pesticides get blown to ‘organic’ farms. Also, when it rains some chemicals spread out to other farms by help of running water. This means when organic farmers take to farming their crops are prone to contamination.

Well, I am not against the use of pesticides or chemicals in food processing but rather the abuse. Unless we bring in serious reform mechanisms, the rain will not stop beating us. And however serious my determined Doctor friend pours herself into cancer research, her efforts will prove insignificant when the causes get increasingly fueled.

How Asia Works: What Joe Studwell Teaches About Development

Joe Studwell’s book,’ How Asia Works’ gives a concise analysis of how the Asian miracle came about. How Japan, S. Korea, Taiwan and China achieved rapid economic transformation. And goes a step further to explain why some of their South East neighbors were unable to do the same. These are Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.

Studwell argues that three government interventions are critical to speed up economic development (based on the study of the mentioned N.East Asian countries). First is maximizing output from agriculture by restructuring agriculture to highly labor-intensive household farming. This makes use of all available labor in a poor economy and pushes up yields and output to the highest possible levels. The overall result is an initial productive surplus that primes demand for goods and services. Increase in agricultural output leads to increase in surplus. This implies more savings which are thereafter used to finance industrial investment.

The second intervention/ideally the second stage is to direct investment and entrepreneurs towards manufacturing. The governments promotes accelerated technological upgrading in manufacturing through subsidies conditioned on export performance. For the case of N. East Asia, local firms were cushioned and offered credit support to excel and become globally competitive. Those that did not perform were culled.

Third is to make crucial interventions in the financial sector, focusing capital on intensive, small-scale agriculture and manufacturing. The state’s role is to keep money targeted at a development strategy that produces the fastest possible technological learning and hence the promise of high future profits rather than on short term returns.

The emphasis that Studwell puts on land distribution is one developing countries cannot afford to eschew. Land is a valuable natural resource that if effectively put to use can lead to agricultural output of epic proportions . Successful countries, as Studwell observes empowers the citizens by giving them access to land. Coupled with massive subsidies, better technical infrastructure, a cushioned market and a window to export, performance shoots. Interestingly, collective household farming in an area leads to high aggregate agricultural produce vis-à-vis the large scale model. Most developing countries have failed to exercise this because of poor land reforms.

I get miffed when western powers reprimand developing countries for doing what they ‘themselves’ did in their earlier stages of development. The author bears out the irony at some point. He acknowledges that in the modern economic era where ideas of free markets have taken precedence, policies to protect local industry and create a forced march for exports may sound more like a list of crimes. That we are raised to believe that in rich countries all the wealth is the product of competition. The shocking reality is that every economically successful society has been guilty, in its formative stages, of protectionism. The aforementioned N. East Asian governments understood this well and continuously ignored the policy advice rendered by the US and the Bretton woods institutions. They never took interest in ideologies pioneered by Adam Smith and David Ricardo but took to heart Friedrich List’s ideology in favor of protectionism. According to List, free trade should be a country’s ultimate goal after manufacturing capacities have first been raised through protectionism. Accordingly, the countries enacted policies to protect themselves against the shocks and whiplash of global-capital flows and made sure their financial institutions served the country’s long-term development ends.

The author’s brilliant assessment got me to jot down a number of points. First, it appears that if a country wishes to industrialize it first needs to develop its agriculture. As agriculture grows and enough savings are made, it transitions to industrialization using the savings to fund this phase. Second is that these ‘important’ international institutions do not hold all the answers to development. At some point, a country needs to take their advice with a ‘pinch of salt’ or keep its economy on a short-leash. Third is that at its formative stages, a country needs an ‘iron-fist’ kind of leadership and that democracy, though good, can drag down the development process. Fourth, is that though the ascend to the top might have looked rosy going by these 4 countries’ romantic ‘rags to riches’ stories, it is far from the truth. It was no walk in the park. The countries were built on sweat, tears, humiliation and sacrifice. There were lots of tests, trials and multiple errors. And therefore developing countries ought to keep that in mind.

Joe Studwell did an outstanding job on this book. I highly recommend.

The Nuclear Dialogue

Dr. Lassina Zerbo, head of CTBTO speaking at the Forum.
Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Lassina Zerbo (Twitter)

On the 31st of May 2019, I went to Yonsei University to attend a forum that sought to involve the youth in the Global Nuclear Dialogue. There were these global leaders who gave important speeches on the need to transform global crises into extraordinary creative opportunities for dialogue and engagement. They preached nuclear disarmament, warned about the dangers of nuclear weapons and encouraged countries to pursue other forms of energy other than nuclear.  Of these were H.E Ban Ki-moon- former Secretary General of UN, Dr. Lassina Zerbo, Executive Secretary, Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) and Dr. Heinz Fischer, 11th  President of Austria. The subsequent sessions weighed in on the role of Youth in denuclearization, gathering a group of young scholars who took it up with zeal and extensively discussed the subject.

The elephant in the room was N. Korea whose persistent nuclear tests have caused their neighbors  sleepless nights, and other nations who have already built nuclear weapons. The goal now is to discourage these nations from toying with those weapons and preventing others who would think investing along those lines. It is noteworthy that the 2011 Fukushima power plant accident (Japan) send across a serious message. As a result countries like Germany have planned to shut down their nuclear power stations by 2022.

But then you ask, what has been done so far to address these concerns? Bring in CTBT. The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) bans nuclear explosions by everyone, everywhere: on the Earth’s surface, in the atmosphere, underwater and underground. The treaty came into force in 1996 and its commission is headquartered in Vienna, Austria. 184 countries have signed the Treaty, of which 168 have ratified it, including 3 of the nuclear weapon states : France, Russian and UK. But some specific nuclear technology holder countries must sign and ratify before the CTBT can enter into force. Of these, 8 are still missing: China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, N. Korea, Pakistan and USA. India, N. Korea  & Pakistan are yet to sign it. The most recent nuclear technology holder country to ratify the Treaty was Indonesia in 2012.

So folks, why am I confounding you with all these statistics? It is pretty simple. You could be coming from one of these ‘reluctant countries’ and in one way or the other, you could cause your government to join the bandwagon. A simple tweet, a facebook update, an academic forum, a newspaper article, one of these could spur the debate and make your government see the need to sign and ratify the treaty. And we will inch towards sustainable global peace.


By Virginia Chege

I am crazy about Korean food and when that crave came knocking, Sushi Soo Japanese Restaurant in Kileleshwa, along Oloitoktok Road became my pick for lunch on a Saturday afternoon. I have to say it was a pleasant experience.  From the CBD it took about twenty minutes to get there. The restaurant is located in a serene environment, perfect for one to relax and take a breather. On arrival we were greeted by a kind waiter who then directed us to our table. It was around 1:00pm and most tables were fairly empty. Nonetheless the setup and décor, from the lamp shades to souvenirs lying on shelves, gave a welcoming Asian-feel. The soft music playing in the background allowed for light conversation as we went about our meal later.

The restaurant offers a wide variety of foods both Japanese and Korean, and at a fairly affordable price. The range starts from 700 Kenya shillings to around 6000 for family packages. We opted for the buffet since it offered a wide selection of Korean delicacies. One tray carried steamed rice with veggies accompanied by fried rice and eggs. Another held Kimbap (a rice roll with fried egg fillings, crab meat, radish, carrots and some greens, all wrapped in dried sea weed). This is a personal favorite given the many different textures offered in one bite, and its fluffy rice and crunchy vegetables. There was Tofu on a different tray, marinated in a sweet sauce, and then kimchi. Kimchi, a spicy pickled fermented cabbage is Korea’s national dish. Fun fact; a good number of Kenyans that dine at Sushi Soo tend to enjoy kimchi a lot, especially fried kimchi which is not that spicy. We tried out Bulgogi  and it tested well. (Bulgogi is a dish of  grilled and marinated thin beef slices) This one was made with vegetables and dipped in a sweet sauce; it might have been honey. We also tried some spicy potato pancakes and a variety of seafood. Japchae (Stir-fried noodles with vegetables) was on offer too.

Korean food is generally healthy by their way of incorporating vegetables into dishes. We dug into Korean styled chicken to boot, prepared in two forms: deep fried and battered, then in a sweet sticky sauce.  It was so tender and juicy, but the sweet and sticky sauce was the winner. Generally, the meal was well put together but I would have appreciated  if they had a wider selection of fruits. The dessert menu too was a bit slim; a slice of cake or some pastries would do well after such a great meal.  One can also enjoy a gamut of fruit juices, smoothies, shakes, coffee drinks, teas and alcoholic beverages. Their lemonade is especially refreshing. It was a bit disappointing though that some of the waiters did not know much about the different foods on offer. This could be a bit discouraging for the new adventurous souls with the urge to find out more about the foods as opposed to just sitting  pretty and minding their meals.

Having been in business for 7 years, the restaurant is gaining popularity among adventurous locals who are eager to try out different cuisines. As a result of this surge they have opened a new branch in Westlands. According to our waiter, Kenyan people lean towards Korean food because of its spicy nature. They especially relish the Korean barbeque and kimchi. Sushi Soo is a perfect fit for family get-togethers or group dinners owing to its wide space. With the mini playground in the yard, the kids will definitely have a great time.  For reservations, one can call the hotline provided on their website. Smoking in the premises is prohibited and is punishable by a fine of fifty thousand Kenya shillings.

I was particularly impressed with their decision to have a mini store within the premises, stocked with Korean foods, snacks, beverages, cosmetics and souvenirs. At least in this way, diners can carry a little of their Korean experience home.

If you are looking for great Korean food in town, pass by Sushi Soo Japanese Restaurant any time between 11:30am and 10:00pm everyday.

Photos: Joshua Nyantika





Korea-Kenya Association: Bridging Korea Kenya relations.

Embassies, foreign cultural centers and trade agencies are known to be the primary facilitators of country to country bilateral engagements. In addition to these institutions, the diaspora communities have contributed too. Under their umbrella, exists a pool of associations that have actively shaped the different facets of diplomacy, be it streamlining bilateral commerce or cultural exchange. One in particular is the Korea-Kenya association. The association is based in Daegu and was founded by Mr. Philsoo Huh, a native ambitious businessman. He envisioned an association that would help promote business activities, cultural exchange and friendship between Korea and Kenya. That was back in 2014 and reflecting on this journey it is proper to say that that dream has come to pass.

The Korea-Kenya association members with Kenya’s ambassador H.E Mohammed Gello & the Deputy Head of Mission Amb. Gathoga Chege

The Korea-Kenya association and proportionately to Mr. Philsoo’s credit, has promoted the commercial and cultural engagements between the Kenyan Embassy, Kenyans and the Daegu area. A key region is Susseongu town which has worked with the Kenyan Embassy on a couple of areas. Mr. Philsoo has facilitated the signing of key MoUs between the two parties and that has gone to facilitate trade between Kenya and S. Korea. The group has organized and participated in events that have ended up shaping Korea and Kenya’s bilateral partnerships. These events have created platforms for networking and exchanging knowledge. One of these was the Daegu-Gyungbuk International Exchange Association (DGIEA) meeting that took place on the 18th of November 2016. The Korea-Kenya Association members, Korean friends and the Kenyan Embassy representatives gathered for an evening of friendship and robust discussions on cooperation.

Another success story, courtesy of the association, is the Kenya corner at Bomun library in Susseongu, Daegu. This is a dedicated section within the library that stocks artefacts, books, magazines, and reading materials on Kenya. Kenyan embassy donated majority of these books. The overarching goal for this was creating an avenue for Korean people to know more about Kenya, something that Mr. Philsoo Huh feels many are lacking. He points out that Kenya is an amazing country with great natural resources and promising investment opportunities but less know about this.

‘When I last went to Kenya I spent a night at Villa Rosa Kempinski hotel, went to Diani and played golf at Windsor Golf resort. When I came back and showed my friends some of the photos I took they were very surprised to learn that this was Kenya,’ said Mr. Philsoo as we sat down for a chat at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Seoul. ’I’ve travelled to a lot of countries and I can confidently say that Kenya is among the amazing places I have been to.’

The Korea-Kenya Association began when H.E Amb Mohammed Gello had just been posted to S. Korea from U.A.E. A delegation of African Ambassadors to Korea had met at a forum and it is here he met Mr. Philsoo. The idea to partner with African countries for business came to Mr. Philsoo’s mind and it took shape when he got into a conversation with His Excellency Mohammed Gello. He would later gather other Korean professionals (with similar interests) and together they decided to focus on Kenya. The pool of professionals represented was quite diverse; lawyers, doctors, Judges, professors, painters, artists, business leaders and professors; brought together with the primary goal of strengthening relations between their country and Kenya, and exploring possible investment opportunities in the two countries. At that time, the Kenyan Ambassador and a few Kenyans were part of this group but later more Kenyans were invited to join. About 16 Kenyans are members now majority being students. .

The Kenyan students have benefited immensely from this association. Senior members have mentored them, specifically Mr. Philsoo Huh whose lead has been that of a father figure. He has held graduation ceremonies for some and gone forth to link them with relative industries. To bond, they occasionally meet for communal lunch or dinner. ‘The association has made my life in Korea easier and fulfilling. I can’t trade the experience for anything,’ confesses Ms. Valentine Wanjiku, an active member.

At Bomeo Library.

Photos: Courtesy of Mr. Philsoo Huh





In the early month of September 2018, His Excellency Amb. Mohammed Gello was invited over to Arirang TV for the Diplomat interview series. The following interview ensued and  this is what he had to say.

So you started your tenure in Korea from 2015. How has your life been in Korea?

I have enjoyed every bit of my stay in S. Korea. 3 and half years so far. While preparing to come here I had read a lot about Korea but upon settling everything became a thrilling surprise; the history and its multicultural aspect. The transition from a poor country to a rich country is nothing short of fascinating. The culture is indeed unique; the character of people, their welcoming nature, and the desire to always express and share their culture. I have enjoyed my stay.

Looking back on this stay what was your most memorable moment?

Many things have been memorable. First was when I went south in Jeonju, a region famous for making Bimbimbap. I had my first Bibimbap there and it was great. Bibimpap is one of my favorite Korean foods alongside Bulgogi. I also love Korean Barbeque. I can’t go for two weeks without trying out Korean barbeque.

Second is the Pyeongyang Winter Olympics. It was a first for me. Also, my other memorable experiences have had to do with the everyday contacts I make with people, especially Koreans; whether in a hotel, in a shop or when going to the market. It has been a wonderful experience. So basically I have enjoyed everything in this country.

H.E. Amb. Gello and Amb. Gathoga Chege join other Kenyans in drumming support for Ms. Sabrina Simader, Kenya’s sole representative in the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

I feel like Kenya and Korea share a lot of similarities. Can you elaborate.

Yes, we do share quite a lot of similarities. Not many years back Korea was where Kenya was but then it chose a different path on development. I also think where a significant similarity lies is from the fact that both countries put a lot of premium on human resource. Kenya is not a very rich country in terms of natural resources. Our development is because of the fact that we spend more money on education.

It is not surprising that Kenya was among the first countries for Korea to open its Embassy. Less than two months after our independence, Korea opened its embassy in Nairobi. This is because of the fact that the two countries share some similarities. Then again transitioning from an Agriculture led economy to an industrial power base it is today is what we are trying to do now. Trying to understand how Korea got it right, why we did not follow their path and what we can do.

I heard that the Kenyan embassy was opened in 2007 and you mentioned that it should have opened earlier. Why?

I regret that we did that in 2007. The reason for opening an Embassy in Korea was very clear. We have had a very strong relationship since Kenya became independent and we believed that there was a lot we could learn from Korea.

Going back to why I felt we should have been here before.

We were both developing countries nearly at par in terms of GDP and we decided to take different paths that we all felt were right. But I guess if we were here and saw your development path, we would have learnt from your experience and would probably be somewhere near you. That is why we are now here. We are working with Korea to emulate the path that they took. Right now we are working with the Ministry of Trade and Industry, and Energy of Korea (MOTI) to develop a Korea style industrial park. So you can imagine if we were here long time ago. We would be very far.

I heard that the Embassy of Kenya has been making great efforts to spread Kenyan culture in Korea. Can you elaborate.

Yeah, we do that. We do that in many events that we participate in like the Seoul friendship festival. We have the Seoul Africa festival and it usually takes place during Africa day. We go as far as Busan and other cities to participate in cultural activities, through dance, through music, spreading of artefacts and food. Through this we are able to bring people together.

I think the most important thing is bringing people together and giving them space to know each other. When people know each other better, then they get to understand what is good in each other’s culture.

The Kenyan Embassy booth at a past Busan International Travel fair. The embassy uses such fairs to promote Kenyan culture in Korea.

What would be the best way to bring the two countries even closer in your own opinion.

Strengthening the areas of cooperation. Fast is to continue with the political process of ensuring that our leadership is more closer, there is exchange of high level visits and support for each other in many ways, not only at the bilateral level but also at the multi-lateral level.

Sustainability of relations also depends so much on economic cooperation. This could be achieved by ensuring that more Koreans are able to do business in Kenya and that Kenya is able to export and sell more in Korea. When countries trade more, they become closer. Of course cultural cooperation is very critical because through culture people understand and appreciate each other better. And therefore when more Koreans know about Kenya and more Kenyans know about Korea, our relations will be strong.

So, this will be my last question for you. What word or phrase could describe your philosophy as an Ambassador.

As an Ambassador my philosophy is always to make sure that wherever I go, I leave it a better place in terms of relationships. That I broaden and deepen that relationship. I am glad that in UAE and in Korea, I have achieved those. Promoting relations, strengthening relations and ensuring that there is an exchange of high level visits.

Busan !!

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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?


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.


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.


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.











Korea project on International Agriculture (KOPIA) is one of the projects that the Republic of Korea is using to share its development experience and knowledge across the globe. It is run by Korea’s Rural Development Administration (RDA). In 2009 they begun their work in Africa by launching their working centers in Kenya and Ethiopia. To date, they have reached 10 countries across the continent and are doing a lot to improve the Agricultural performance of the countries they are working in.

The Kenyan chapter is run by an ebullient Director, Dr. Kim Choong-Hoe who has led his team to achieve much more for the 8 years that they have been running. They work in partnership with the Kenya Agricultural & Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) in meeting a select number of needs that face the Kenyan agriculture. Their projects center around poultry production, maize, rice, potato and vegetable production.

They are located in Kiambu, at KALRO  headquarters. There projects run in Nyandarua,  Kikuyu and Machakos county. For the other regions in need of their know-how and equipment such as the Western part of the country, the respective county Governors have made an effort to visit their center and learn a number of things

A tour at KOPIA centre provides a glimpse into their psyche, evidenced by the farm demonstrations that fill up the compound. There are several demo fields exhibiting  a range of  crops such as maize, potato, cabbage and tomato. There are crops with over 23 species of herbs such as lavender and rosemary, and others that have cucumber, paprika and strawberry. The most ambitious could be the 3rd demo field, which is a furnished poultry raising facility. In this facility they have been raising poultry that they later distribute to farmers in the quest to promote local poultry farming. They give it to local farming groups with each group receiving 5 chicken to start them off. To be able to get this donation, a group must comprise a minimum of 20 farmers

KOPIA is more hands on and practical than you would find a typical project office. In fact, the Director does not look the part. On a normal day he will be dressed like a farmer and so will his members of staff. The demo fields are spread out, an assemblage of green houses, tilled lands and poultry houses.

In addition to these outstanding demo fields, the work they have done outside is equally great. They have run four projects which have been rolled out in 2 phases. Part of this has been disseminating technologies in the production of rice, potato and the vegetables. To function in an efficient manner, they have worked along researchers to develop localized technologies that are in sync with the Kenyan farmers. They have constructed demonstration plots at major production areas, advised farmers on using the correct certified seeds, maintaining the soils and making manure.

One of its outstanding projects is building the school farm of Kadeng’wa primary. They have equipped the farm with poultry, maize, potato, sweet potato, cabbage and tomatoes. The farm products have gone into feeding the children most of who come from poor families. The Director, Dr. Kim Choong Hoe went lengths to use his own personal money to buy them food, textbooks and stationery. He also  requested for a large scale donation from the Rural Development Authority (RDA) Korea that heed his call. The centre is looking forward to do much more that will improve Kenya’s agriculture and establish Korea as a true partner in the country’s general development.

Image Credits: Joshua Nyantika