Baseball in the background, mackerel in the foreground: fresh at the market in Sokcho
Between the mountains and the sea, across the country from Seoul, Sokcho is a seafood-lover's dream. In the city's downtown Jung-ang Market, (one of several markets in town), this husband-and-wife team caught my eye: with a baseball game on in the background, freshly caught and cleaned mackerel in the foreground, and plenty of action in the middle--making a living from the sea's bounty, just south of the DMZ.
(FYI--when referring to the source of all this fish, don't call it "The Sea of Japan;" Koreans bristle at the colonial occupation of their country from 1910-1945, and so the body of water is officially referred to here as "The East Sea.")
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Although many visit Seorak-san National Park in the mountains just west of Sokcho, this rustic city is still a bit off the beaten path for most foreign visitors. The jumble of new construction (and lax zoning laws) gives the port-town kind of a frontier feel, but the people are friendly and the seafood is fresher than fresh. To get here from Seoul, catch an 'express bus' from Dong Seoul Bus Terminal or Gangnam Express Bus Terminal.
There aren't many huge expanses of beach--the coast is rocky and near the DMZ, so parts are closed off by the military--but there is a popular 1 km-long stretch of white sand, just south of the Jo-yang-dong neighborhood, only a five-minute walk from the Sokcho Express Bus Terminal. Come mid-week for peace and quiet.