Busan, hub city?

PIFF posterOK, so I didn’t make it to PIFF this year. I don’t think I’m ever likely to: time away from work is precious, and to be spent with one’s beloved. If one’s beloved isn’t in to sitting in a darkened movie theatre straining to read the subtitles for days on end (and I’m not sure that I am, either), then a week at a film festival is not a good way to use up valuable vacation time. Besides, I have two festivals in London in the comings weeks to look forward to.

Of course, Busan is on my mind at this time of the year because of the festival, but I also have fond feelings towards the place because one or two of my closest Korean friends come from there rather than Seoul. It’s also the place where I got the worst hangover I can remember (That bottle of whisky in the noraebang clearly was a mistake after all that had gone before).

Statue of Admiral Yi, BusanAs far as I’m aware, in the many claims made for Busan, being the Asian film hub is not one of them, though the status of the festival could provide support for such a claim. The Chosun, in a recent article, compared Busan with Hong Kong for its film scene, but as far as I’m aware Busan doesn’t have a film industry in the same way that Hong Kong did (and does).

It is, of course, in the frame for being a regional logistics hub: it’s number 5 in the global container port traffic league tables – at least, it was in 2004, the latest date for which I can find statistics – behind the obvious candidates Singapore and Hong Kong. At 3 and 4 are two Chinese ports, Shanghai and Shenzhen. Clearly, with the China becoming the world’s workshop, Chinese port traffic is going to be ever on the increase. But Busan, if you focus on the trans-shipment statistics (which I guess is key if you are going for “hub” status) tops the league table for North East Asia, according to a more recent article in the International Herald Tribune, which also claims that Busan’s new port development is only operating at 20% capacity. Rather like the development of Korean heavy industry in the 60s and 70s, huge investment is being made, in the hope that the revenues will follow. Last time round it worked, and it’s to be hoped that the story will continue. Kang Boo Won, Busan Port Authority’s marketing director, is quoted as saying that

when the port has 30 berths, by 2011, liner operators will flock in, as Busan boasts some of the most efficient stevedores in the region.

Busan old port

The Chosun mentions the ambitious building programmes in the city, with four 100-storey tower blocks planned, two to be situated near the new port. The Chosun also reports on the city’s rising international conference trade.

Another plausible claim to hubdom, though, is in plastic surgery. South Korea generally is known as being cosmetic-surgery obsessed. A friend of mine who is naturally good-looking tells me she always feels insulted when complete strangers come up to her in the street and ask her for the name of her surgeon. (I think I would take it as a compliment, but it’s unlikely to happen to me). According to a Bloomberg report cited in the Chosun,

About 10,000 people journeyed to Korea last year for plastic surgery, the report said. While the industry is still in its infancy, tourists who want rounded cheekbones or flat tummies can choose from 80 clinics along Busan’s Seomyon Street, known as Beauty Town.

“The aspiration to resemble Korean stars is creating a big following from Asia,” said Kim Byung-gun, 45, a cosmetic surgeon in Seoul who operates BK Clinic. About 30 foreigners, mostly Chinese and Japanese, visit Kim’s BK Clinic every month, compared with 20 a year ago, he said. Many ask for the eyes and nose of Lee Young-ae or Chae Rim, popular Korean Wave stars.

Now the Korean government and 35 hospitals are spending W1.2 billion to market Korea as a cosmetic surgery destination, the article said.

Haeundae beach (right) and Gwangan Grand Bridge, Busan

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2 thoughts on “Busan, hub city?

  1. Following your tangent, rather than the main topic, I’m always bemused by those plastic surgery articles. I believe them, yes, not to have fudged the numbers. And yes, that plastic surgery must be popular. But having been brought up in Seoul (and Kangnam at that), it always struck me as odd that, though we assumed (and had verified) that all the celebrities and all the middle class girls get plastic surgery, no one around me had. Of course no one would proclaim such, but even if they were keeping it hush, let’s just say the effects were never visible. 😀
    It was like watching beauty pageants when we were in high school and college. The contestants would seem like another species. Who knew them? Who talked to someone like them? Did we see them in school? Sad, such a wide gap between this bewildering media buzz and the boring (and very plain) folks we lived with.
    😀
    😀

  2. Good point. Not everyone in Korea is a celebrity or beauty queen, but read the articles and they’d have you believe the contrary. Like you, I’ve never come across anyone who admits to having been under the knife. But on a very unscientific comparison of the average person in a Seoul street and the average person in a Tokyo street, I’d rather be watching the passers-by in Seoul… Whether that’s a reflection of greater take-up of surgery or greater natural beauty I really don’t know…

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