02 October 2008


I have returned from a two-night trip to Busan, 260 miles away from Seoul in the far southeast of the Korean peninsula, the No. 2 city in South Korea, and the nation's premier port. It has a very international flavor due to its proximity to Japan (and to a lesser degree, the Russian Far East).

Sarah will probably never visit Busan, as it's not on the United route map (though United does offer codeshare service to Busan from Seoul on Asiana, and competitor Northwest does fly to Busan), and it's not a must-see city. But a few Sarah-related items popped up anyway.

Busan holds PIFF (Pusan International Film Festival), now in its 13th year. Here's a Japanese entry, named Happy Flight. Although the poster is in Japanese and I couldn't quite understand it, it appears to be about flight crews at Japan's All Nippon Airways (ANA), something Sarah will love to watch. ANA has partnerships with both United and Asiana, by the way.

The trendy district of Seomyeon, in the center of Busan, feels much like the collegiate districts of Seoul as featured in my last post. Here in Seomyeon, just about every building has a cosmetic surgeon, something that will shock Sarah. In South Korea, it is safe to assume that just about every woman has had cosmetic surgery, because a job applicant normally must attach her personal photo on her resume/job application, and because being unattractive will mean denied job and marriage opportunities (and even more).

Additionally, it is common expectation that a job applicant put down her national ID number, age, sex, birthday, marital status, and number of children on her resume. In this rigid Confucian society with well-defined social roles, one's age, gender, and marital status are important qualifications for a job. (For example, a typical part time help wanted ad at a retail store will ask for a single female between ages of 22 and 28.)

Sarah will be relieved to know that she hails from a country where a transgender woman like herself, complete with quite masculine facial features, can still get a job - not just any job, but a glamorous flight attendant position at one of the leading international airlines.

I also visited a Buddhist temple - Beomeosa, in the far north of Busan, and one of the finer Buddhist temples in the nation. Here's Gwaneumjeon, or Hall of Kwan Yin, dedicated to the transgender Goddess of Mercy. That's the golden statue of Kwan Yin inside. On the interior walls are thousands of little lighted Kwan Yins. I couldn't get closer, out of respect for the dozen or so people praying inside.

As I left my hotel this morning to start my return trip to Seoul, I got a glimpse of a very tall foreign tourist, sporting reddish brown hair, and dressed in a lime green sweater minidress. Although Sarah's hair is auburn red, and not as skinny as this tourist, she still reminded me of Sarah. This woman's minidress was of a crochet design, with a pattern of a few dozen holes; she was keeping her modesty with matching-colored underwear. This may be something that I might put Sarah in...

If and when United starts to send its own planes to Busan, I will make sure Sarah serves the route.

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