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Busan Film Festival

Ever since watching the drama Answer Me 1997 I have been desperate to go to Busan and hear real live people speaking in Busan dialect. Finally last weekend through my program I had the chance to travel (all three hours) south to the second largest city in South Korea.

I still can’t get over how small this country is–I got to the train station at 8:00am, got on the KTX (bullet train) at 8:30, and was in Busan by 12:00. If we had driven or taken a bus it would have taken about 5-6 hours, but still if I drove that long I wouldn’t be able to get from one end of my home state to the other. The KTX was very nice, though I have to admit I missed the “train bento” culture that is present in Japan when riding the shinkansen.

After dumping our things off at our decently nice hotel (located in a slightly sketchy section of the city surrounded by motels/love hotels) we all fled out into the city to explore and see movies. Why to see movies? Well because our main purpose in going to Busan was to attend BIFF–the Busan International Film Festival. I had no idea what to expect, as I had never been to anything even remotely similar to a film festival before. Now that I have been I can’t wait to attend another, it was incredibly, even surprisingly, fun.

My little crew and I headed toward the beach as soon as we dropped off our luggage. Even though the area where our hotel was seemed a little sketch, as soon as we turned a few corners we were on the main street in the Haeundae area of Busan–located on one of the nicer and more famous beaches in the area. The weather was absolute perfection–sunny with blue skies and just a bit of a refreshing breeze. Maybe its because I am from the exceedingly land locked Minnesota, but it really felt like a vacation.

After taking the necessary beach pictures we started wandering back to the main street in search of some lunch. And upon seeing a crowd we decided to wander over….

And guess what?

It was one of the BIFF stages, and none other than Jo JeongSeok and Lee BoYoung were being interviewed about one of their recent projects. I KNOW JO JEONGSEOK. I basically died and went to heaven. For those of you who don’t know, he was the main character of the recently finished Korean drama Oh My Ghostess, which swept Korea like a wildfire. He is so adorable…. I can’t even….

After that excitement we found some lunch, and we were amusingly seated outside the restaurant, we think to attract people–particularly foreigners–to eat lunch at the restaurant as well.

We also wandered down a street, that I later found out is actually one of the famous areas of Haeundae for seafood, looking at everything the little street stalls had to offer. Even just within a couple hours of being in Busan I could feel how Korean and yet different from Seoul Busan was. I can’t exactly put my finger on all the things that were different at the moment, but the city in general had an incredibly welcoming and community feel despite there being generally fewer foreigners.

By this point I had to get going to the Megabox Haeundae in order to get the tickets for and watch the first movie I signed up for–Two Rooms, Two Nights. The online registration was surprisingly competitive and I ended up just registering for whatever was open and was Korean, and was quite skeptical of my choices. My BIFF movie guide had a small synopsis for the movie, outlining that it was about a guy who was meeting an ex-girlfriend and his current girlfriend visited him while this was happening.

I thought it was going to be sad and awkward and overly dramatic, so as I sat in the theater waiting for the movie to begin, feeling particularly unqualified to be there as I was surrounded by a plethora of people in the film industry with very official looking badges, I was trying to mentally prepare myself.

Let me tell you–it was amazing. I had the lowest of low expectations, but it was incredibly fun to watch. The first half of the movie was almost entirely in Japanese, and though in general the film was comedic the director managed to confront some very deep topics throughout the film.

After the film was done we were all ushered into the next room and were allowed to sit there as the director and the three main actors/actresses discussed the film and had a Q&A session. Being familiar with the main actor and actress already, I was so excited to get to see them in person and hear them talk about the film. Mostly people wanted to know about the various bed scenes–both humorous and romantic–but the actors and director handled all the questions naturally and gracefully.

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The evening ended with deokbokki at a street vendor and soju on the beach with lots and lots of girl talk, so basically the perfect evening. There is nothing better than sitting with good friends as you listen to the ocean and watch the twinkling of lights from the city.

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Day two took me and a few friends to the other side of Busan for the morning. Luckily for us Busan has considerably fewer subway lines and is much easier than Seoul to navigate despite being new to the city, and we made it there without a problem. The area we went to is a bit like Hongdae/MyungDong in Seoul, and it was fun to wander around people watching–especially since the city was packed for BIFF.

After meeting a friend of a friend for lunch, I headed back to the Haeundae area and happened to wander back over to the beach before stopping at my hotel. Good thing I did because KWANGSOO WAS THERE. Also Park BoYoung. But KwangSoo though…he is so tall and hilarious and strangely attractive. I died a little. Film festivals are definitely my new favorite thing ever.

That evening I went to another film ‘Alone’……and was scarred for life. I honestly still don’t quite know what was happening. There was lots of murder and confusion and replaying events….and I think it was all a dream/between life-and-death kind of situation but I really don’t know. My friend Grace and I held hands basically the entire movie, and had I not been holding out for some sort of resolution at the end of the film I probably would have run away much sooner. >_<

The final morning in Busan, before heading back to Seoul, I followed one of the CIEE leaders to an area of the city that had been very very low income but was relatively recently part of an initiative to bring art and tourism to the city, and was repainted with murals and filled with art shops made by locals to help the community thrive. Despite having caught a cold and it being surprisingly hot and mountainous, I wandered around taking zillions of pictures for a couple hours–definitely worth the visit!

Sooner than I was ready to leave, I boarded the KTX and zoomed back up to Seoul, a mere 48 hours after having had arrived. There were so many more things I wanted to see and I absolutely can’t wait until the next time I can go back to Busan.

Thank you for reading and I apologize if you have been curious about my adventures in the last month! I am hopefully maybe officially back to blogging now that I need to procrastinate studying for all my midterms 😛

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