Busan was the launch pad for Japan’s invasion of Korea during the Imjin War in the late 16th century. The battles in and around the area were successes on the Japanese side, but they met some brutally loyal resistance against its powerful charge.
Eventually, Japan failed in taking the peninsula. A history I will return to when covering more of Korea. Three centuries later though, as is well known, it succeeded in fulfilling its desire to have a foothold on the continent. From there, it propelled itself deeper and deeper into the landmass of Asia in pursuit of what its European cousins had: an empire. It should be noted that this characterized all the Axis powers, while the allies had accumulated enough territory to exploit for their own development. This is not so much an apology as an observation. The ex-Axis powers have long abandoned their old strategies and have become modern in the most truest sense.
Busan, therefore, stands as a memory of an initial success by a hostile infringement that ended up being a failure. Even though Korea fell in its entirety in another era, it nonetheless regained its independence once more and we’re, once again, back where we started ( although now this part of Asia looks a lot more like it did during pre-Joseon times, with the projecting mass of land divided among very different entities.
And now a city like Busan, that bright metropolitan spot on the southern coasts of Korea, beams its dance of lights far beyond the land and into the seas. It stands proudly as South Korea’s second biggest city and is itself a strong link to that old arch nemesis, the Japanese archipelago. From besieged fortress to a peaceful but impressively wealthy retreat for Korean and other tourists.
Now I am leaving for Japan, that most eastern of lands.
Since my arrival in Hong Kong I have followed Japan’s trail of destruction. It did great damage to that city, and thus the British Empire, contributing to the descent of Old Europa. It left a very noticeable footprint on the island of Taiwan. And Korea, for obvious reasons, cannot be visited without hearing and seeing the influence the Japanese had on this nation. The Imjin War and the colonization of modern times are defining moments in time for Koreans as a people.
I heard the Japanese tongue in all subway announcements. From the Pearl River Delta to the outskirts of Seoul. Now I will hear it in the flesh. I will see what has become of that empire the monarchist Mishima lamented to see reduced to a shadow of its former self. Or is it really?