|A board covered in colorful posters displaying handwritten messages wishing Busan the best in its bid to host the World Expo 2030 is set up at Haeundae Beach. Korea Times photo by Shim Hyun-chul
By Lee Min-young
A great deal of excitement is being felt across the country at the prospect of Busan hosting the World Expo 2030.
The World Expo offers an opportunity for countries and organizations to promote themselves on a global stage. It also provides a platform for people to come together, exchange ideas and share innovations, as well as a chance to showcase the culture and heritage of the host country. And so, the city of Busan has placed its bets on hosting this global event, hoping to capitalize on its platform to showcase its unique culture, vibrant history and commitment to innovation and progress.
|Streets along Haeundae Beach are lined with banners wishing Busan a successful bid for hosting the World Expo 2030. Korea Times photo by Shim Hyun-chul
It is reasonable to wonder, then, what is the cultural appeal of Busan that makes it a competitive bidder?
Being a port city, Busan has established itself not only as a center of international trade and business but also raises a compelling claim of being the cultural capital of Korea.
Busan already has a long history of hosting international events and is known for being a culturally diverse city. The city has emerged as a powerhouse of culture and entertainment, hosting the largest international film festival in Asia and boasting a flourishing music scene. It is the setting for an array of performing arts venues, museums, galleries and year-round festivals and events that draw visitors from around the world.
|A stunning display of firework is set against the backdrop of the sea during the Busan Fireworks Festival. Courtesy of Busan Metropolitan City
Adding to its allure, Busan's pristine coastline and natural beauty further contribute to its reputation as a tourist destination. With its vibrant culture, entertainment and culinary scene, Busan stands out as a must-visit destination for travelers from all around the world. Moreover, it is well-poised to serve as the perfect backdrop for the upcoming World Expo 2030.
|Bright reflections of the Busan cityscape shimmer and sparkle against the still waters of the bay. Courtesy of Busan Metropolitan City
Fostering artistic growth
Busan's influence stems from its rich cultural heritage, thriving arts scene, natural attractions and progressive policies.
As a city with a rich cultural landscape, Busan houses numerous galleries, museums and public art installations. It has become a center for creative expression and innovation, attracting filmmakers, musicians and other artists from around the world.
|Visitors to Museum of Contemporary Art Busan enjoy one of the displays at the Busan Biennale in this undated photo. Courtesy of Busan Metropolitan City.
All of this has been made possible through the city's infrastructure investments and commitment to providing a supportive environment for the arts.
The city has also worked to foster collaboration between local and international artists and organizations, creating a uniquely diverse and vibrant culture that has become a major draw for both tourists and creative professionals alike.
|A display of art from the Busan Biennale at the Museum of Contemporary Art Busan / Courtesy of Busan Metropolitan City
One of the many examples of this cultural exchange is the Busan Biennale, an international contemporary art exhibition, which has provided a platform for artists from around the world to showcase their work and engage in cultural exchange since 1998. The city also established the Busan Cultural Foundation, which supports various artistic activities and programs, including artist residencies, workshops and festivals.
|The Museum of Contemporary Art Busan / Courtesy of Busan Metropolitan City
A number of partnerships have been formed between Busan and other cities around the world, such as Seattle in the United States and Vladivostok in Russia, to promote cultural exchanges and artistic collaborations. These efforts have helped to foster a vibrant arts and culture scene in Busan and promote cultural understanding and appreciation between different countries and communities.
Diverse array of music festivals
Its thriving music scene is also a major draw for the city, and has made Busan a destination for travelers from around the globe.
Busan prides itself on hosting a variety of music festivals throughout the year, showcasing both traditional and contemporary music genres.
|The crowd roars with excitement as a musician perches on top of a barrier at the Busan International Rock Festival. Courtesy of Busan Culture & Tourism Festival Organizing Committee
One of Busan's most popular annual music festivals is the Busan International Rock Festival. It has been held since 2000 and features both local and international bands of various genres. The festival takes place in July at the Samnak Riverside Sports Park and has become one of the largest rock festivals in Korea.
|Punk band Crying Nut performs at the Busan International Rock Festival. Courtesy of Busan Culture & Tourism Festival Organizing Committee
Busan Sea Festival, a celebration of the city's rich maritime culture and history, also takes place in August and features a variety of water-based activities and events. The festival attracts both locals and tourists and is one of the most popular events in the city.
Some of the highlights of the festival include a colorful parade, live music performances on a floating stage at Haeundae Beach, an open-air market and a variety of watersports activities such as surfing, kayaking and yachting.
|Thousands of festivalgoers fill Busan's Haeundae Beach during the Busan Sea Festival. Courtesy of Busan Culture & Tourism Festival Organizing Committee
|Festivalgoers enjoy the unique atmosphere of a live music performance on a floating stage at Haeundae Beach. Courtesy of Busan Culture & Tourism Festival Organizing Committee
One of the most popular events in Busan along with the Busan Sea Festival is the Busan Fireworks Festival, which features dazzling displays of pyrotechnics set against the backdrop of the sea.
|International visitors flock to Busan Fireworks Festival, one of the largest fireworks festivals in Asia. Courtesy of Busan Culture & Tourism Festival Organizing Committee
Busan Fireworks Festival is one of the largest fireworks festivals in Asia, attracting millions of visitors from all over the world. The show features a wide range of colors and effects, from sparkles and stars to streamers and comets, all choreographed to create a stunning visual and auditory spectacle.
Also worth noting is the Busan One Asia Festival (BOF).
Since its inception in 2016, the Busan One Asia Festival has become one of the most popular and influential K-content festivals in Asia. Its aim is to promote the culture and music of K-pop to a larger audience, increasing its visibility and reach.
|Busan One Asia Festival, which draws large crowds from around the world, has become a cultural symbol of Busan, showcasing some of the biggest stars in K-pop. Courtesy of Busan Metropolitan City
The festival features a variety of cultural events, such as K-pop concerts, dance performances, food exhibitions, fashion shows and art exhibitions.
Among the main events of the festival is a K-pop concert, which features some of the biggest stars in the industry. The event gives fans a chance to get up close and personal with their idols and to see them perform their songs live. It also allows fans to connect and bond with each other as they share in their love and admiration of their favorite performers.
The concert lineup typically includes a mix of established K-pop groups and rising stars, with performances that showcase the latest trends and styles in Korean pop music. Some of the past performers at the BOF K-pop concert include EXO, BTS, TWICE, Red Velvet and Monsta X, as well as rookie groups such as Le Sserafim and many more.
Host city of Asia's largest film festival
Busan is also well-known for hosting several international film festivals that have gained global recognition.
Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) is the most famous among them. Held annually in Busan since 1996, it is one of the most prestigious film festivals in Asia and is known for its focus on introducing new and emerging filmmakers to audiences around the world. BIFF screens over 300 films, including feature films, documentaries and short films from around 70 countries.
The festival also hosts a number of other events, including red carpet premieres, gala events and masterclasses with filmmakers and actors. The festival also offers opportunities for filmmakers to participate in panel discussions, Q&A sessions and workshops, providing a platform for them to exchange ideas and learn from each other.
|Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) is one of the most prestigious film festivals in Asia where movie buffs can watch the latest films from around the world. Courtesy of BIFF
|Film industry professionals and enthusiasts from around the world gather in Busan for the Busan International Film Festival, establishing the city as a cultural hub in Asia. Courtesy of BIFF
The Busan International Film Festival has played a crucial role in promoting Korean cinema internationally and in creating opportunities for Asian filmmakers to showcase their work to a global audience. It has also helped to establish Busan as a cultural hub in Asia, attracting film industry professionals and enthusiasts from around the world.
Cultural attractions abound
To name just a few of the many cultural attractions that Busan has to offer, Busan has traditional markets, such as Jagalchi Fish Market and Gukje Market, which have been around for decades.
|Many visitors enjoy the unique foods and atmosphere of Gukje Market, which makes it a popular spot among both locals and tourists. Korea Times photo by Shim Hyun-chul
Jagalchi Market is Busan's largest seafood market, located near the waterfront in the city center. Visitors can browse the many stalls selling fresh fish and seafood and even have them cooked on-site.
Gukje Market is also one of the oldest in Busan, offering a wide variety of goods including clothing, souvenirs, food and household items. It is located near Busan Tower and is a great place to shop for souvenirs.
These markets offer a glimpse into Korean culture and cuisine and visitors can enjoy traditional Korean street food and other local specialties.
|Gamcheon Culture Village is a vibrant neighborhood well-known for its maze-like alleyways and wall murals. Korea Times photo by Shim Hyun-chul
Additionally, visitors can explore cultural sites such as Gamcheon Culture Village, known for its colorful and quirky street art, steep hills, winding alleys and brightly painted houses. There are also numerous art galleries, performance venues and museums throughout the village, making it a destination for art lovers and culture aficionados alike.
As the city is located on the coast, it is a popular destination for beachgoers. Haeundae Beach and Gwangalli Beach are two of the most popular beaches in Busan, both offering a wide stretch of sand and stunning views of the ocean. Haeundae Beach is particularly famous for its lively atmosphere, with numerous restaurants, cafes and hotels lining the beachfront.
In addition to its beaches, Busan also has several natural attractions. Geumjeongsanseong is a historic fortress located on a mountain overlooking the city. Visitors can hike up to the fortress and explore its ancient walls and gates, as well as enjoy stunning views of the city below.
|A lighthouse at Taejongdae Park allows visitors to view the stunning natural beauty of the cliffs and coastline from an elevated perspective. Courtesy of Busan Metropolitan City
Taejongdae Park is another popular natural attraction, featuring a rocky coastline, cliffs and a lighthouse. Visitors can take a ferry from the city center to the park and explore its many hiking trails and scenic viewpoints.
From the city center to the park, Busan is a place where visitors can take in awe-inspiring views, enjoy the diverse topography and immerse themselves in a unique blend of urban and natural attractions.