I've been looking forward to visiting Yeosu since hearing Busker Busker's song 여수 밤 바다 (translates to Yeosu Night Sea). Yeosu, a beautiful seaside city in the south of Korea, hosts a World Expo every several years. My sister attended, and she says the main purpose is to show off how beautiful the setting of the huge convention center is - she and her friends didn't make it outside the center during their stay.
As for the song, it is a nostalgia-heavy remembrance of love, and gave me the impression that Yeosu is made up of fragrant breezes and bittersweet memories. Not entirely a complete picture.
Outside of song, Yeosu is a beautiful, rough-around-the-edges place. While walking up the inevitable food-cart street on the way to visit a temple, an elderly woman grabbed my arm with steely, persuasive fingers. Having caught my attention, she began calling "아들아 일로 와! 아주 맛있어... 먹어 봐, 먹어 봐" (Come here, son, this is really tasty, try eating some!) in her thick dialect while feeding me pieces of 갓김치 (gat kimchi). This local version of the famous Korean pickled vegetable turns out to be really tasty. Sort of a chipotle flavor.
Yeosu also holds a claim to fame as the site of Admiral Lee Sun Shin's victory against an invading Japanese fleet. Thanks to his invention of turtle boats, large wooden armored ships, the invaders were repelled and his position in history secured.
This maritime tradition has continued over the centuries: Yeosu's main industries (apart from tourism) seem to be fishing and shipping. One of the large businesses is the fish bank, as I refer to it. Actually called 수협은행 (literally "water industry bank"), this bank is the aquatic counterpart of 농협은행, which invests heavily in agriculture. This tallies with what I've heard about the start-up climate in Korea: investors are wary of startups, and tend not to invest, especially not in return for equity. Apparently banks will offer loans, although those don't do much good for cash-strapped fledgling enterprises. That's not to mention the chaebol (large industry conglomerates), which dominate most market areas that startups would target. Instead, these banks place their trust in the millennia-old sources of wealth in Korea: the land and the sea.
For my next adventure, I joined Peter Beck for another long march through Bukhansan National Park, the mountainous area north of Seoul. Until the early afternoon, this was just another beautiful spring day. Suddenly, what seemed like cherry blossoms began to fall. Then, the sky clouded over and the temperature dropped. Snow in April!
Undeterred, we continued to the summit of Baegundae, where the sky opened and treated us to cloud-streaked views of Seoul.