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The Story of Busan Lighthouses Updated: 2011-03-24 00:00:00 KST

Korea's most renowned port city, Busan. It is Korea's biggest trade port.

There are manned lighthouses in three parts of Busan. Gadeokdo, or Gadeok Island, is one of them. I've been working here as a lighthouse keeper for 22 years now.

I have to climb 198 steps to get to the top of this 40-meter high tower.I go up and down these stairs several times a day.

On top of this tower, the light must shine 24/7. My duty is to make sure the light shines brightly and never dims.

[Interview : Kim Ho-su] " When you're at sea, you need the lighthouse to know whether land is near.Lighthouses are used to indicate land to ships about 20 to 50 miles away. Regardless of technological advancements, people must check for themselves whether land is near. Lighthouses play a pivotal role."

On a clear day like today, the Gadeokdo Lighthouse can shine a light all the way to the southernmost island of Marado. Does that give you an idea of how intense it is

[Interview : Kim Ho-su] " It's a fusion of Japanese, European and Korean architecture. It is registered as Tangible Cultural Property No. 50 of Busan and owned and managed by the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs. Lighthouses got taller and bigger over the years. For about 100 years, this lighthouse served its purpose and I have to salute its steadfastness."

It stopped serving its purpose as a lighthouse in 2002. But memories of working here with my crew remain vivid for me.

[Interview : Kim Ho-su] " This cast-iron pot is just too big, so we only use it to boil hot water. To cook, we use portable gas stoves."

Being back here, the memories are returning.

[Interview : Kim Ho-su ] " I think about the old days quite often. The lighthouse is old, but having lived here for years, I feel the structure was well-made, especially considering it's 100 years old."

Day turns to night. Meaning, it's time for man and nature to turn in. In contrast, the lighthouse starts its day.

The darker it gets, the brighter it shines.

Lighthouse keepers like me are busy at night. We have to be on alert to guarantee the safety of the ships out at sea. We work in shifts to provide our service 24/7.

[Interview : Kim Ho-su] " Other than Gadeok Island's lighthouse, we look after 18 unmanned lighthouses in the vicinity. We must make sure they're all working optimally.

It takes a team of experts to create a lighthouse. This baby bottle-shaped lighthouse was designed by a close colleague of mine.

[Interview : Han Chang-su, Lighthouse Designer
] "Busan has the lowest birthrate.Korea has the lowest birthrate
among OECD member countries. I wanted to highlight the growing problem of a declining birthrate by designing this lighthouse."

Creative ideas give birth to new designs. They may have unique looks, but they all serve the same purpose.

The official game ball for the 2002 World Cup, Fevernova, can be found here.

[Interview : Kim Bi-tae, PR Manager
Busan Convention and Visitors Bureau] " My job is to make sure we can promote Busan city and put it on the world map. The way you associate windmills with Amsterdam, we aim to make lighthouses synonymous with Busan. We see lighthouses as more than just structures. They are a symbol of Busan."

As night falls in Daebyeon Port, fishing boats return to shore.

Anchovy season is March to May. The boats are loaded with anchovies. As the fishermen shake them off the net, they glitter like jewels.
The fishing boat captain lets me sample some fresh anchovies.

[Interview : Lee Do-gyeong, Restaurant Owner] " It's not spawning season yet, but you can marinate them and eat them raw. They're tender, tasty and melt in your mouth. you could have them every day."

Even before I taste the soup, the look, sound and smell of it entice me. We have the lighthouse to thank for this meal.

[Interview : Park Yun-bong, Anchovy Fishing Boat Captain] " Whenever we sail out, we know the lighthouse will be there for us. It tells us exactly how to get to places. So we're thankful for it.One thing that's predictable and reliable when you're out at sea is the lighthouse."

Thanks in no small part to the lighthouse, fishermen roam the sea without fear. The small light beaming out of my tower provides many with great joy.

[Interview : Kim Ho-su, Director
Gadeok-do Lighthouse] " To me the lighthouse is like the morning dew. It's untainted by surroundings and it guides ships home at night. Come daytime, it quietly switches off. The dew appears in the morning and evaporates when the sun is up. In that respect, the two are very much alike."

I work in the lighthouse to provide a guiding light. Every day, I feel privileged to do what I do.
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