Today we had the opportunity to visit the U.S. Consulate in Busan which offered unique insight into the historical and current United States and South Korean relationship as well as on Busan. The consul explained that Busan, the second largest city in South Korea with a population of over three and a half million, is trying to find itself. As previously mentioned, Busan is the fifth or sixth largest port in the world and it is opening a liaison office in Los Angeles. According to the consul the city, if cultural and economic relationships improve, is trying to position itself as the main port for all of Asia and Busan is already becoming increasingly international.
The consul is the only American diplomat in the U.S. Consulate in Busan, and he is the senior U.S. government representative to a quarter of South Korea. His day to day activities include talking to students and giving guest lectures, communicating with businesses and the functioning’s of any embassy such as reporting on local economics and politics.
Our second visit of the day was Pusan National University. Founded May 15, 1946 it was the first comprehensive national university. Most of the funding for the school came from citizens and local businesses, and one of the things the information session stressed was that it was a “university loved by the people.” Another point made there was that the university focused on “we instead of I.” This was particularly interesting in the context of a collectivist society and contrasted with American schools and society’s which in my experience seem to highlight their focus on each individual student as well as the community as a whole.
While we were visiting Pusan National University, we attended a lecture on “Understanding North Korean Changes Despite Continuity,” which offered a significantly more nuanced view of North Korean attitudes and their relationship with the broader world. We were also able to attend a brief tour of the university, in particular parts of their mechanical engineering labs which were exciting and full of 3D printers and machines and some novel items they were used to create. Finally, in the evening we were able to visit Jagalchi Market which is the largest fish market in South Korea!