The fun part about living in Korea (or any country that you didn’t grow up in) is seeing how the different cultures handle different things. For example, I come from Michigan in the US, so winter is typically extremely cold and quite snowy. Also, the beaches are usually just abandoned, since no one wants to be on any of the Great Lakes when the wind chill is below zero. I know there are lots of places in the world much colder than Michigan, but I still can understand what Winter properly is.
Here in Busan, winter is extremely mild, especially compared to where I grew up. There are certainly days where the wind can be bitterly cold and go right through you, but there’s no snow and it barely ever rains in this season. In other words, Busan winter is a fantastic winter to this Midwest girl! And Busan has proven that it knows how to use its stunning beaches all year long.
Every January, Busan puts on a massive event called the Polar Bear Swim. This year was the event’s 29th anniversary, and there were all sorts of concerts and fun activities to go along with the swim. The event has its own page, but it’s pretty much all in Korean, so I found the Korea Tourism website to be more helpful for finding event times and the like.
Cody and I went to check out the event for ourselves, and managed to get there early enough to see them setting up. There were tons of tents that had things like kite making, postcard decorating, and of course, tons and tons of food.
Like I said earlier, where I’m from winter is all about freezing cold temperatures and lots of snow and ice. Even in the summer, Lake Huron only gets to maybe 65 degrees Fahrenheit during the hottest part of a really hot summer. Yet people will be in the water every minute they can, despite the fact that it’s not that warm to be in.
The Busan Polar Bear Swim had an air temperature of around 45 degrees and the water was probably about 65 degrees. To Cody and I, with our Midwest perspective of what winter and cold are, this day seemed a little too warm to call a “Polar Bear” event. But I came to Korea to open my mind to new ways of looking at things, and I can understand how these temperatures are the dead of winter to Busanites. And I respect their desire to take on the physical challenge of jumping into the ocean in the middle of January. It was a really fun event to be there to watch, because the whole crowd was amped up and excited for the swim to start.
Here’s a video of the crowd and the start of the swim. You can see how excited everyone was!
I didn’t do the event this year, but maybe next year I’ll give it a go. Have you ever done a Polar Bear event? Would you ever try it?