Life in Busan: What It’s Like to Live in Gijang

Looking for an area to live in Busan? Our new series looks at locals in Busan giving the inside scoop on what goes on in their neighborhood.

In our tenth installment, we talked to American Elizabeth Lunyou Bardhan about the ins and outs of life in Gijang.

About the Area

According to the Gijang Country website, Gijang’s name derived from the Korean word ‘Geochilda’. The Chinese characters of the name contain the meanings ‘big village’ as well as ‘village on the outskirts’. It also contains the meaning of ‘first village’. It represents the first place residents set foot on after returning home after working at sea.

Originally named Gaphwayanggok with records dating back to the 16th century, the name changed to Gijang is related to the Chinese character policy in the 16th year of King Kyeongdeok, which is when unified Silla decided to use the Chinese character system for all place names.

Located between Haeundae and Ulsan, Gijang and the Dong Busan Tourism Complex has grown in recent years with the Busan City Corporation confirming 32 of the 34 investment facilities in the Osiria Tourism Complex, including the theme park, Aqua World, IKEA, and a golf course among others.

It has two beaches along with a beautiful coastline offering a wide variety of activities, parks, and retail just outside the city limits with a mix of old and new structures blending in harmony with nature.

The Basics

Name: Elizabeth Lunyou Bardhan

Occupation: Freelance Proofreader, SAHM

Where are you originally from? Olive Branch, Mississippi, USA

What area do you live in? Dong Busan, (Osiria Station), Gijang

How long have you lived there? 10 months

Why did you choose there? This area is an amazing combination of farmland and city life. It depends on which direction you look. IKEA is one way with a river and farming community the other. The biggest reason was the housing options. The apartments here are much larger, newer, and cheaper than the ones near Jangsan where we lived before. Nature walks to Songjeong Beach and shopping at the outlet mall/IKEA are great aspects of living out here.

The Area

What kind of people would you say tend to live in your area? We live next to the foreign school so our apartment complex has a lot of foreign couples with children who go to the school as well as Korean families with kids.

Do you know any of the neighbors or anyone in your building complex? Yes, since many people speak English here, I have met foreign and Korean neighbors and even started meeting for coffee and visiting each other’s apartments which never happened where I have lived in Korea since 2012.

What are the best local spots in your area? The Haeundae Blue Line walk that goes from Haeundae to Songjeong Beach unofficially continues all the way behind our apartment as a walk along Neri Stream. We can go out to the stream and walk all the way to Haeundae. It takes several hours and would be better by bike, but we love to walk. We can also walk to Songjeong Beach which is great for weekend cafe hopping. The Dong Busan Lotte Premium Outlet Mall, IKEA, the Hilton Hotel, and of course the up and coming Lotte Amusement Park and Yonggungsa temple are all in this area.

Image: Elizabeth Lunyou Bardhan

If you are an art lover this area is great! Our apartment has a pottery studio and painting studio next to the cafes for adults and children’s art hagwons nearby too. Across the street, there is a knitting club and a pottery cafe and about 3 km away is a pottery museum and restaurant in an old potter’s house with a natural kiln too.

Gijang is famous for its pottery and art with pottery and traditional art villages as well as natural beauty like the bamboo forest at Ahopsan and the lavender farm in that area as well. Living right on the border of Busan and Gijang makes us close to lots of really great places.

What kind of stores are within a 5-minute walk to your front door? There is a local grocery store, GS25, juice shop, coffee shop, chicken shop, greenhouse/plant shop, bar,  hair shop, surf shop, dog cafe and bakery, tire shop, brunch cafe, library, restaurants, and real estate agents within 5 minutes.

Image: Elizabeth Lunyou Bardhan

What’s the view like from your living room? We live on the second floor so we overlook an apartment grassy space with flowering trees in front of our window. It’s very quiet and relaxing. This apartment doesn’t have parking above ground so all the areas around the buildings are parks, playgrounds, and green spaces with walking paths, and fountains.

Are there any restaurants, shops nearby in case you need a taste of home? Across the street is “Cafe M” which made the cover of Better Homes and Garden Korea this month for its architectural design. It’s a fabulous brunch cafe with a truly beautiful design. The brunch menu is nice when we need a little taste of home. I recommend the steak salad and don’t miss the cheesecake (she bakes them on Wednesday’s and they go fast so plan accordingly.)

Also in our apartment complex is a fun cafe called “Up to You.” The staff/owner speaks English fluently and makes amazing baked treats like American-style cookies, as well as scones, macaroons, and pound cakes. Her coffee is delicious and cheap. The cafe is usually populated with foreign teachers grabbing a sandwich at lunchtime, or English-speaking high school students doing their homework and sipping their Flat Whites in the afternoons. It’s a fun environment when I need to feel like I’m back home. Plus the fresh-baked yummies and delicious but cheap coffee are ideal.

Any recommendations on local restaurants in your area? Behind our apartment, beside the Neri Stream, one of the farms has a greenhouse restaurant serving their homegrown veggies with a delicious spread of soup, rice, and side dishes. It’s really relaxing to walk through the fields along the stream then sit down and have a healthy meal at a farm. The family that runs it are all really kind and their son speaks English fluently.

Are there any grocery shopping places nearby? Across the street, about a 5-minute walk away is a local grocery store with a huge selection of fresh veggies and fruits, plus the normal Korean grocery items. The Lotte Outlet Mall has a Lotte Mart too for bigger shopping trips. It’s about a 20-minute walk or a 5-minute drive away to get there. Usually, I just order groceries from Coupang. Now that they have the reusable delivery pouches and don’t create all the box garbage, I find it much easier to just get everything on free Rocket delivery.

Where could you pop out for a quick drink? My drink choice is coffee or tea so I don’t know about the quality of bars around here, but I know the apartment has a bar and cafe that advertises beer and wine and bar food like chicken tenders. I imagine it’s probably a good option.

Image: Busan Science Museum

Is it a good area for kids to grow up in? This is a family community with lots of young families. The atmosphere is fabulous for kids. Our apartment has several well-designed playgrounds each one for a different age or skill level all of which my toddler has tested and approved of. 

Also, we have a fountain piazza where people have picnics around the stream-style fountain at the nicely arranged cafe-style tables. Also, families often gather there in the evening for socializing while the kids play on the playgrounds.

The Neri stream and farms behind us bring lots of fresh air and open space to play as well. Of course, the foreign school is famous so the school situation is good, though expensive.

There is also the Busan Science Museum within walking distance with huge play zones indoor and outdoors, plus with the planetarium and interactive exhibits, it’s a great afternoon with kids.

Once the amusement park opens, that will be really fun as well. I think this is ideal for families with any age children.

Any good hangout spots to recommend? The mall and IKEA as well as Songjeong Beach are major hangout spots. Also, the Ananti Town shops, bookstore, and cafes at the Hilton are fun to explore with friends…or jump on the Osiria train which is a 10-minute walk and go over to Ilgwang Beach or the other way to Jangsan.

Image: Elizabeth Lunyou Bardhan

What are some of the stranger things you’ve seen in the area? Over by the mall, there is a building being refabricated, all the glass is broken out, walls torn down..but the top floor is a working cafe with fabulous architectural design. There are all kinds of people hanging out here from shady-looking gangster styles in the corner to families enjoying the bakery and open ocean view balcony near grandmas having a chat. Their coffee and bread are fabulous but cafe “220 Volt” is interesting and strange where “You are safe here” is written on the floor.

Last week, I felt sure I saw some underhanded business deals as large stuffed money envelopes were given to a young man set up for business in one of the corners. His thin mustache and goatee made him look like a cartoon villain as did the shiny black suit and a bright red handkerchief. He sat there for hours as men came in in small groups giving him the envelopes and behaving suspiciously. Who knows what was happening, but the floor tells me “You are safe here” despite the largely empty warehouse design and lack of cameras covering dark nooks.

How expensive would you rate the area? It’s much cheaper to live here than in the busier areas of Busan. The apartments are bigger, newer, nicer, and cheaper than what we saw in Jangsan, food prices are the same or cheaper with most coffees not topping 5,000 won. Gas prices have been higher than in Haeundae New Town.

Would you recommend your area to live in? Yes! I love living here though it is much quieter than being in the main areas of Busan, so some people might not like replacing Busan nightlife with the sounds of bugs and frogs or that glorious Busan smell with the aroma of flowers and freshly cut grass, but I love it.

If there was any other place I could live in Busan it would be: I enjoyed living in the Haeundae New Town/Jangsan area for many years and would live there again, if I couldn’t live in this area, because the stream and mountain there offer a little nature experience that I crave.

Haps Staff
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