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BUSAN

South Korea’s second largest city has its own unique attributes that complement and constrast with it’s bigger sister, Seoul.

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Welcome to the 96th issue of B.

Back in 2018, when B revisited Seoul, the capital city of Korea, to put out a second edition, we talked about what city would be the best for the city issue besides Seoul. Many of our editors—including me—thought of Busan, the second largest city in Korea, and Jejudo Island for its breathtaking natural landscapes. Five years later, we wound up doing an issue that features Busan. Of course, we were drawn to Jejudo Island because it embodies the idea of rest and relaxation, but truthfully, we were more curious about Busan’s many faces beyond the beaches and tourism. I myself visit the coastal city every year and always feel like moving there whenever I go, so it is obvious that the port city 400 km south of Seoul has some kind of magnetic allure.

Each time I arrive at Busan Station and taxi to Haeundae to get settled in—I’ve done this so many times I don’t dare to even try to count—I find myself mesmerized by the landscape of the piers as I look out the car window. Not until rows of shipping containers and towering cranes catch my eyes do I feel like, ‘Ah! Finally, I’m in Busan.’ It feels like passing through immigration. Maybe because of the unique layout of port cities, I have always assumed that Busan was bigger than Seoul. Maybe it is the impression that you can only get from the second- or the third-largest cities. Apparently, it is the norm that the nation’s largest city—the capital city in an administrative and economic sense—naturally chases ideas like “global standards” and “cosmopolitanism.” Despite the never-ending changes in architecture, culture, and commercial districts that seem to pop up overnight, capital cities always feel rather mediocre when all things are said and done. That might explain why I have recently heard globe-trotters grumbling that there is nothing special out there. Everything is already in Seoul.

But Busan has staved off this rather imminent phenomenon of standardization. Of course, the city boasts a good number of flagship stores by global brands, inventive and fancy restaurants, and uniform- like styles that hipsters wear, but these elements do not shape the visitor’s impression of the city. Rather, Busan’s cultural elements—embedded in the clothing, food, and architecture—forge a distinctive locality in its raw state, emerging through the cracks between the well-developed infrastructure that is essential for a big city to survive. The essence of Busan that B captured for this issue also centers on the people, the products, and the companies that add contemporary twists to local tradition. From Momos Coffee’s Jooyeon Jeon, who triumphantly sprang up from the local specialty coffee scene and on to the global stage; and Balansa, a fashion brand whose contemporary chicness is no less superb than Seoul- born rivals; to Gentz Bakery, which strives to retain a sense of “Koreanness.” All these players generated cultlike followings locally and received offers to expand to Seoul. (Usually, it happens the other way around.) In a city where not even one of Korea’s top 100 companies has its headquarters, it is a feat that locally grown creativity translates to business acumen, resulting in phenomenal success.

The potential of Busan, I opine, lies with innovative small business owners, though they are wildly outnumbered by their counterparts in Seoul. Indeed, the Busanites B met say that the city’s potential is in the hands of the people who grew up in Busan, far from Seoul and close to the door to the outside world. Busan has constantly grappled with internal and external forces due to its geographical position and historical events, like outsiders coming and going, refugees from the Korean War rushing in. Even still, it seems that Busan has the most fertile soil to cultivate new contemporary ideas. This may be why I as a land dweller, born and raised in Seoul, always envy people who live near water—and where they come together, in Busan.

Eunsung Park

Editor in Chief

Description

Busan, Korea’s second-largest city, boasts breathtaking mountains and beaches. Busan achieved remarkable growth in the wake of the Korean War, driven by industries like shipping, machinery, and textiles and shoes. And this amazing feat is largely due to the city’s rapid acceptance of outside cultures. Over time, Busan has integrated many external influences and added its own twist each time. The cosmopolitan maritime city also catapulted to new heights by hosting major cultural events like the Busan International Film Festival, Busan Biennale, and G-Star, incorporating an intriguing mix of its regional and global elements. More recently, young innovative entrepreneurs are leaving their mark all over the culinary, cultural, and art scenes as they mold the port city’s singular—and inimitable—identity.

Pairs nicely with Magazine B: SEOUL and Magazine B: KYOTO

I think cities are not a subject for renewal. They keep themselves alive and tirelessly evolve to new entities. Korean cities seem to be quite reserved compared to cities in other countries. But if you look more closely, you’ll find that every Korean city has their own personality and interesting elements. I hope cities are filled with individuals who are committed to establishing their own identities far into the future, so each city will write their own script instead of replaying the same old show.

Sungwoo Choi, CEO of Ochoryang·Boan1942

Busan’s art scene is drawing more attention than ever before, with art fairs in Busan receiving critical acclaim. Increasing numbers of people closely watch new art movements emerge in lesser-known, non-Seoul regions. Art and tourism are more tightly converged now because the new trend is to enjoy diverse aspects of a city, which means appreciating paintings and sightseeing at the same time. We need to keep an eye on the growing number of people who are willing to get on a boat and go to an island to see an exhibition.

Jaewoo Choi, president of Johyun Gallery

Additional information

Weight 380 g