The last decades have seen South Korea burst on the international scene as a major country and one to watch for the future ; thus coinciding with the growing importance of Busan’s Port, an essential weapon for the country integration to globalisation.
Throughout the centuries, although the port was not as big as today, it has always been the Korean Peninsula’s open gate to the world ! As South Korea seems determined to rely more and more on its ports, let’s look at what makes the port an important hub nationally, regionally and, internationally.
South Korea’s development is a recent one, which echoes to the Port of Busan’s expansion, as the country’s recent opening to the rest of the world is inevitably tied to the development of its main port. In fact, a link can be made between South Korea’s booming economic growth over the last thirty years, and the progressive, yet effective, growing of the Port of Busan. Indeed, this metropolis of approximatively 3,6 millions inhabitants hosts one of the biggest and busiest port of the planet.
Attending a boat tour of the modern part of the port, people would be amazed by the huge number of containers (13 millions managed a year), and the the 27 kilometres’ quay wall the port is facilitated with.
Located at the southeastern tip of the Korean peninsula, the Port of Busan is established in a deep protected bay facing Japan’s Tsushima Islands ; it lies at the mouth of the Naktong River, which is flowing through Korea’s second largest city.
Ever since the Three Kingdoms of Korea period, when a powerful chiefdom dominated the area of Busan, the city has played a major role in Korea’s history ; mostly because of its long standing ties with Japan, that started during the 15th century, and were hugely important in Busan becoming Korea’s first international port in 1876. When the peninsula was under Japanese domination, the port was modernised as it was an important hub for trade with Japan. Furthermore, Busan has a unique place in South Korea’s history, as it was one of the only two cities, along with Jeju, to escape North Korean Communists occupation ! Therefore, the city became the (temporary) capital of the New Republic of Korea.
Nowadays, the city continues to flourish around its ever-growing port which was the 10th busiest port in the world in 2007, and is the 5th busiest at the moment. The port of Busan is Korea’s main port and represents 40% of the country’s overseas cargo, 80% of its container cargo, as well as 40% of its national fishery production. It opens the peninsula to one of Asia main waterway : the sea of Japan.
The port is related to a lot of major industries such as shipbuilding (Hyundai being the world biggest shipbuilder), electronics, steel, automobiles, ceramics, paper, chemicals, etc. Moreover, the construction of new industrial parks attracts the high-tech industry. In fact, tourism is the fastest growing industry for the port with gravure tourism attracting tourists from across Southeast Asia to Busan, particularly to its renowned beaches (Haeundei beach being the most famous). Furthermore, the city of Busan and its port, benefit from an effective transports network, with major railways, the Kimhae International Airport, as well as express buses.
The Port of Busan is under the control of the Busan Port Authority, responsible for developing, managing, and operating the port, which possess four container terminals, which deals with various goods and products, as well as cruise and ferry terminals ; including the South Port, the largest fishing base in South Korea (30% of the nation’s total marine products’ sales), with the Jagalchi Market, the famous fish market.
The Port of Busan is a vital gateway for South Korea, as it is connecting the country to the Pacific Ocean and Asia. Accordingly, the Busan Port Authority wants to modernise and develop the port’s area. In the late 20th century, a new container port and a distribution centre were built, however, it began operating only in 2006. Moreover, the Busan Port Authority is pursuing a plan to develop the general quays of Busan Port as a more pleasant and safer port facility, and this is scheduled to include the movement towards an environment-friendly port development. Furthermore, resting places for citizens are planned to be included rather than the current conventional quay. This project is to be pursued by collecting the opinions of experts, Busan citizens, and through specialised research services.
The goal of the port is to become the hub of international logistics in the Northeast Asia, to be fully integrated to the 21st century’s globalisation. Therefore, the port must secure its position as a hub-port on the main routes of international container transportation, as well as enhancing its functions as a multifunctional port and gateway to the economic zone of Northeast Asian region. Actually, the main obstacle to Busan’s Port development as the dominant hub in the region seems to be Russia’s desire to have access to and develop North Korea’s ports, which would give Moscow an edge in worldwide exchanges, since these ports offer an access to the Arctic Circle, which is, according to many experts, the key for the exchanges for 21st century !