On the streets of Pusan, not too far from Chalgachi Fish Market.
When I think about when I first came to Korea, I think about photographs like this one. I think about cold days and washed out, drab colors.
Although I hadn’t noticed it before, as soon as we walked out of the hotel, we were greeted with the cold salty air smelling of fish and simmering silkworm larvae—called bundaegi, a Korean delicacy. Farther on down a narrow side street, chubby ruddy-faced ajumoni squatting over their wares on the sidewalk flashed us silver-capped toothy smiles. Farther on down, we scurried past wooden carts lit with strung up jury-rigged incandescent bulbs swinging in the howling, swirling wind. Thanks to the movie Ghost, speakers everywhere resounded with the ubiquitous strains of “Unchained Melody,” an octave above the market cacophony.
But it wasn’t the carts laden with pig intestines steaming in metal pans, sheets of seaweed, dried squid, and pirated cassette tapes that caught my eye; instead, it was a scribbled misspelled sign flapping in the wind above a vendor hawking his goods.
“Hey, Ken, get a load of that,” I said, pointing to the sign.
Ken laughed. “Precious. I should have brought my camera.”
Instead of “Unchained Melody” the vendor had scribbled, “Unchanged Melody.”
An excerpt from Waking Up in the Land of the Morning Calm