The mountains and hills of Busan are easily its best feature, both helping to confine the city’s sprawl and offering parks and natural refuges for residents to escape the stress of everyday life. Among Busan’s wide range of nature walks, the one spanning Igidae Park (Hanja: 二妓臺公園) in the precinct of Yongho-dong, Busan Nam-gu is among the most popular.
Jangsan Peak occupies the stretch of coastline just south of Gwangalli Beach in Busan Suyeong-gu, and had been under military control until 1993. The whole mountain is now open to the public, though nearly all visitors stick to the popular coastal walk, which takes about two-and-a-half hours. It’s a perfect hike, with magnificent views over the ocean and city, and only slightly strenuous.
Possibly even more than the beautiful nature, the path’s flawless infrastructure most impressed us. Steps and handrails in perfect condition, plentiful information posted in a variety of languages, modern suspension bridges, benches wherever the view is especially good, and even toilets are found along the trail. Busan has clearly invested a lot into Igidae Park, and it’s heartening to see a city so concerned with improving the quality of life of its citizens.
The name “Igidae” comes from a legend set during the Japanese Imjin Invasion of Busan. Shortly after conquering the city, the Japanese had a victory celebration at the fortress on Jangsan Peak. A few Korean “entertaining women”, or Gisaengs, were brought along to dance for their new lords. Two of them, possessed by nationalistic furor, grabbed one of the drunken Japanese officers and jumped off a cliff, sacrificing themselves for a small sweeter taste of Korean revenge (which I bet tastes like kimchi). The name “Igidae” refers to the “two Gisaengs”.