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Title 'They won't do anything. It's been this way for years' – a postcard from South Korea, where they keep calm and carry on drink
Posted by Stanley Yoon (ip:)
  • Date 2017-09-20 15:08:03
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Tomas Marcantonio wins £200 for his tale of a Saturday night in South Korea drinking rice liquor and not worrying about the North.

The Diamond Bridge was ablaze in red and purple and we saw the lights of the cars sailing across the bay. They were coming back from the mountains and the beaches and were heading into the city for Saturday night and its wild parade of neon.

The park by the water was not a park at all and just a long stretch of concrete that sloped gently into the ocean by the lighthouse. The food trucks were lined up along the top with their dried squid and fish cakes on wooden sticks, and savoury pancakes that were sizzled on black stone slabs. People were bringing boxes of food and cans of beer, and they put newspapers on the floor to sit on and turned the boxes over to use as tables. We sat down and drank and ate and looked at the lights on the bridge and their reflections across the black water.

I was told that on Saturdays, real life in Busan was in Seomyeon with its crooked alleys and singing rooms and restaurants, where green soju bottles gobbled up every table, and the smoke from barbecued pork belly and beef charged out of open windows and into the backstreets where drunks stumbled between bars. But here by the water it was quiet and there was only drinking and eating and watching the old fishermen up on the groynes. The fishermen watched the water from under baseball caps and we couldn’t see what they brought in.

My Korean guide for the day poured makgeolli out into paper cups. The sour smell of the rice liquor reminded me of the hike earlier that day. My new friend had said makgeolli was for mountain summits and looking at the city from above.

“Do you think they’ll really attack this time?” I asked. We were talking about the North and the latest missile tests. It was all over the news at home, but no one in Busan was talking about it. My guide just laughed. He was young and it was Saturday night, and from Busan the North seemed a long way away.

“They won’t do anything,” he declared, and everyone else nodded. “It’s been this way for years.” He poured out more drinks and the newly filled cups were empty within seconds.

I looked across the park at the people. Someone was playing guitar and a group of girls nearby was rejecting the happy advances of a group of red-faced boys. I drank the makgeolli and chewed on a thin strip of squid. You could chew on it slowly like beef jerky and it was a good thing to have in your hands between drinks. The music went on and we looked at the bridge throwing lights over the calm water while more drinks were poured out.

It was Saturday night in Busan and the North seemed a long way away.


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