There are a lot of reasons to be excited about Black Panther. It’s the first Marvel movie (and the first 21st-century mega-blockbuster) with a mostly black cast. It’s also the best MCU film and unlikely to be unseated anytime soon, despite Marvel’s recent string of winners, and its narrative features REELYDOPE’s home base of Oakland, CA. But the number one reason I was hyped for Black Panther is that it’s partially set in Busan, South Korea, where I currently live and work as an English teacher.
Black Panther will be the first time many American viewers have heard of South Korea’s second biggest city. Although most Western tourists flock to Seoul, Busan is a major destination in its own right: it has tons of mountains with amazing hiking trails, beautiful beaches, and the Busan International Film Festival, the biggest film festival in Asia. Given how much my students love the MCU, it’s nice to see the city get some love from Ryan Coogler and co.
Maybe you saw Black Panther and thought, “I want to plan a trip to Busan!” Maybe you find yourself in Busan one day and want to see where Black Panther was filmed. Whatever the case, here’s your travel guide to all of the major Busan landmarks in Black Panther.
Nonexistent Underground Casino
Definitely don’t go here, because nothing like this exists in Busan! As much as Black Panther’s fictional Wakanda exists in what Carvell Wallace calls the “Africa of our imagination,” the film also exists in the Asia of our imagination for this scene. There are casinos in Korea (all but one are open to foreigners only), but as far as I know, none of them look anything like this. I’m no expert, but I watched Black Panther with someone who said that the architecture and fashion influences in the casino looked more Chinese and Japanese than Korean.
Director Ryan Coogler said in an interview that production designer Hannah Bleacher’s work on the casino was “Korean-inspired, but it’s got a beautiful James Bond feel.” I agree with the second half of that sentence! Since there is no actual Stark Tower in Manhattan, the MCU can have some leeway with other cities too.
Once the action leaves the casino, the film does an amazing job of capturing the look and feel of Busan at night.
One of the car chase’s first locations is Busan’s famous Jagalchi Fish Market. Busan is a port city with a huge fishing industry, and there are many local seafood specialties to try like gejang (spiced crab meat), eomuk guk (fish-cake soup), and san-nakji (live octopus for you Oldboy fans—I recommend it, it’s not really that gross). Jagalchi is the largest fish market in Korea where you can buy any variety of wet, dry, or live fish. I was hoping for a shot of T’Challa’s car crashing into a vendor’s stall and sending squid flying everywhere, but I guess I’ll have to wait for the sequel.
Even if you don’t like seafood, Jagalchi is an essential stop for tourists. It’s a fantastic Cultural Experience™ to walk among the market stalls and see the different vendors. Any of the seafood restaurants next to the market will be a good spot to relax with some grub and soju. I live near here, so if you visit, you can buy me a round!
Just a 5-minute walk from Jagalchi is Nampo-dong, which has amazing street food and shopping. Both places are only a 15-minute bus ride from Gamcheon Culture Village, a traditional village on top of a mountain that has become an essential tourist destination with its many art installations. Be sure to combine all three of these spots if you do a day in the area.
Another prominent spot in Black Panther is Yeongdo Island, just across a bridge from Jagalchi and Nampo. The island gets its name from mythical horses that, it was said, could outrun their own shadows. You won’t find any horses on modern Yeongdo, but you will find a bustling port industry. The intense editing of the Black Panther chase scene makes Yeongdo hard to recognize, but you can recognize it from its imposing, brightly-lit freeway overpass. I teach at a middle school right next to that overpass! (Owen Wilson voice) Wow!
If you do check out Yeongdo, be sure to visit Taejongdae, a seaside mountain/park on the other end of the island with great hikes and views of the ocean.
The chase scene extends to Sajik-dong, an area in the north of Busan home to the Lotte Giants baseball stadium. If you visit Busan during baseball season, I recommend attending a game even if you don’t like the sport. Tickets are pretty cheap, and the quirks of the KBO league (bat flips, cheerleaders, and affordable food and drink) make a Lotte Giants game a change of pace for American baseball fans. A baseball stadium where you can get a cup of light beer for less than $10! Amazing.
If you’re as far north as Sajik and you like hiking, I recommend going a bit further to check out Geumjeong-san. It’s a sprawling mountain park with a cable car, a fortress, and the highest peak in all of Busan.
Gwangandaegyo Bridge / Gwangalli Beach
After the car chase crosses Gwangandaegyo Bridge (and the crazy slow-motion car explosion from the trailer happens), it wraps up on the must-visit Gwangalli Beach. Busan is famous for its beaches, which get ridiculously packed over the summer, and Gwangalli is one of the better ones. It has a spectacular view of the bridge’s light show and plenty of good restaurants, cafes, and karaoke bars. These make it popular with tourists, which is why you saw some white people in the movie’s reaction shots.
Korea has no open container or public intoxication laws, so if you’re of age, you should absolutely have a few cold ones on Gwangalli beach. During the day, Gwangalli is a nice place to relax in the sun, and at night you can buy floating lanterns or Roman candles to set off.
Other good beaches to check out in Busan include Haeundae (the most famous) and Songdo (quiet, nice). My personal favorite, however, is Dadaepo Beach to the south. The other three have busy streets right next to the water, but Dadaepo has a big park in between, so you feel a little more ~in nature~.
There are a million more things to do in Busan, from the Busan Cinema Center to the numerous Buddhist temples, war memorials, and other historical landmarks. If Black Panther was your first introduction to the city, I hope this guide points you in the right direction!
Adam Keller is an Oakland native with a sad compulsion to put his opinions online. He hopes that you like them, but what’s really important is that you like yourself. Twitter