We packed comfy clothes and a pile of books for our overnight trip to Seong Jung beach, just north of Busan. The laptop came too, full of movies. The plan was for a relaxing weekend.
The plan wasn't to share the beach with a heaping mob of university students, out to Seong Jung for their orientation field trips.
There were hundreds of them, spilling out of cars and motels and the tiny train station. They took over the beach in huddled groups, proud and bubbly in their matching T-shirts bearing slogans that, um, I didn't quite get ("Quick Fast"? huh?)
Now, if I were on a beach with hundreds of Canadian university students, I would buy earplugs and kiss that lazy weekend goodbye. My first thoughts would be "shoot, that Family Mart is going to sell out of beer," "shoot, someone's gonna vomit in the sea real soon," and "shoot, that guy with the guitar has been playing a slowed-down acoustic Hey Ya for 20 minutes."
Isn't that what carefree university students do?
Not in Korea, friends.
These groups played games. Big, sober, active games: races and wrestling and Duck Duck Goose. I saw many rounds of the popular hopping game where players, jumping in the sand on one foot, try to knock each other down. Boys were in and out of the still-wintry water, picking up an unsuspecting friend and carrying him, despite resistance, to be dunked into the sea.
Around the student revelry, wet-suited surfers bobbed around the low waves. Young families built sandcastles and flew kites. It was such a scene of good clean fun, I wondered if things would get really Animal House after dark. Our Korean friend, a university student, has told us about dorm life, with noisy parties and cheap rice liquor concoctions designed to get you drunk, fast.
The cheery students crowded the Family Mart (nonotthebeer!) to buy rounds of wholesome hot dogs. The one bar on the strip, whose unfortunate name was "Let's Get Drunk," was empty all night.
In fact, the only people out after sunset were couples like us, strolling up to the tiny clifftop temple, buying weak fireworks from beach vendors, wrapping cold fingers around a shared cup of hot chocolate.
Good clean fun.
Gotta love Korea.