01 October 2008

Busan: wrapup

It's mid-afternoon on Thursday, October 2nd. I am back in Seoul at the apartment, having left Busan just four hours ago.

The morning began with a breaking news: the suicide of a high-profile actress. The actress in question has been one of South Korea's most popular and respected for the past few decades, and she was also a leading feminist, taking advantage of the new family laws enacted this year to change her children's surname from her husband's to her own. It's quite a shocking news for the locals - and for me, it's a reminder that suicides are a major social issue here in South Korea, and this can only continue, as long as the hyper-competitive society, the death cults, and decreasing health services budgets drive many to the brink. Over the next few days, I should also expect a number of copycat suicide attempts among fans and others. Even on the train back to Seoul, live news feeds continued to update the passengers on what the police investigators are finding out about this, complete with the outline of her suicide note sent over a text message.

My original plan called for exploring another beach resort this morning, before taking an afternoon train to Seoul. But that was scrapped, and I stayed close to Nampo-Dong and the train station area.

Fish sculpture at Jagalchi Market, with the fishing fleet harbor in the back. The bridge in the distance is another shortcut bridge, named Namhang (South Port) Bridge, now open, and it was under construction the last time I was here.

A look west toward a local hill, with some of the fishing fleet across the bay. There are lots of old shacks on the slopes of the hill. My father grew up somewhere over there, and he stayed longer here than my mother (he started in first grade and finished high school) - so his memories of Busan are much clearer.

A bar on Nampo-Dong's major thoroughfare. It's a Beatles-themed music bar, where I can also buy some soju (Korean vodka). The Beatles' photos are noticeable.

Speaking of the Beatles, when I later got on the Seoul-bound train, the boarding music was "Let It Be" - played with traditional Korean string instruments!

The thoroughfare mostly consists of wig shops, for some reason. This being South Korea, just about all wigs are black or dark brown.

The eastern end of Jagalchi Market, toward the bridge to Yeongdo, consists of dry seafood, including anchovies and much more. As required by law, most stalls here clearly mark the place of origin for their products. The vast majority of products sold here are caught in local waters, and most of the rest come from elsewhere in South Korea. North Korean products are also quite common, while Vietnamese and Peruvian products are also here, though rare.

I then took the final subway ride back to the train station. Busan's subway works a lot like Seoul's, though some of the announcements, especially for transfer stations and stops near tourist attractions, are made in Japanese and Chinese, in addition to standard Korean and English. Smart debit cards also offer discounted fares as well as free transfers to buses; however, Seoul's T-Money card can't be used here, and I was forced to pay cash. Fortunately, a 3,500-won (USD $3.50) one-day unlimited ride ticket saved me a bundle yesterday, even though it was useless on the buses.

I have arrived at the station. Across from it: the Choryang Foreigner Shopping District, whose signs are in English and Russian as well as Korean. Seeing Cyrillic alphabet in South Korea is still a bit exotic and bizarre, due to the longtime Cold War mentality of seeing the USSR as the Evil Empire, but with the growing ties between Russia and South Korea, Cyrillic signs are becoming more common - and more Russians are visiting.

My train back to Seoul made a few additional stops, in addition to the required stops in Daegu and Daejeon. This, plus some unusually slow run about 50 miles south of Seoul, resulted in the run taking just a few minutes shy of three hours.

During the run, the continuing news feeds also featured some updates on the US financial crisis, but much more upsetting were the government officials' remarks - (1) the previous Roh Moo-hyun government was a typical "pro-North leftist regime" and (2) South Korea will never be an advanced developed country unless the "pro-North leftists" are completely eliminated. (Of course, in these bastards' eyes, I am a pro-North, anti-American leftist - never mind that I know and love the real, democratic America more than the bastards ever will, and that my hatred of Kim Jong-il equals my hatred for Lee Myung-bak.) If these bastards are correct, Roh would be the most neoliberal, pro-free trade Communist in the history of the world - quite an accomplishment. The smearing of leftist political opponents is so reminiscent of the Reagan-era smearing of Democrats and liberals in the US - which itself was funded by South Korea's government through the Unification Church. Adding insult to injury were propaganda messages from the current Lee Myung-bak government stating its "commitment" to peaceful co-prosperity of the two Koreas, as well as statements from Lee himself stating his dedication to "keeping the social welfare system intact" and "upholding the spirit of inter-Korean agreements," the latter in reference to Roh's visit to Pyongyang exactly a year ago; all are blatant lies, as any sane South Korean knows. I was so upset that I felt like choking the off-duty Army privates next to me, demanding that they surrender the nation's sovereignty, and vowing to never return to the US unless I could take the sovereignty from them to Emperor W.

I will repeat, again and again: South Korea is NO LONGER A DEMOCRACY.

Not even resuming playing Sarah McLachlan on my iPhone could calm me down. However, a short time later, I switched back to Mariah Carey, which seemed to help quite a bit more. I closed my eyes, and pictured myself not being in South Korea, but in one part of the much bigger world. I then recalled my past travel moments - first, back to 1994, taking a United Airlines flight back to the US and later meeting with Mariah herself, then later, in 1998 and 2003, taking a Eurostar bullet train from Paris to London. It also helped to remember that the KTX and the Eurostar are the only TGV models ever to have 18 passenger cars; all other TGVs have only 8 or 10. By the time I was back on the high-speed tracks and speeding toward Seoul, I was feeling a bit more relieved.

The train ended its run in Seoul. As I got off, I wished that in the future, I could continue on the train, not only to Beijing, Moscow, and Paris, but all the way to London via the Channel Tunnel. While through train travel from Busan to Paris was possible - and done - before Korea was divided, no one has ever done a through train travel from Busan to London, as the Channel Tunnel didn't start operating until 1994. It won't happen until the bastards in both Koreas are overthrown, but when that happens, and tickets go on sale, I'll be the first to sign up.