Sokcho, South Korea. At first glance, you might think, "small houses with colorful tile roofs--how quaint. A bit claustrophobic, perhaps, but cozy in an Asian way."
Then you remember the history--sixty-one years ago this summer, the Korean War broke out. Millions of civilians fled back and forth across their peninsula.
Here on the east coast, just south of the current DMZ, refugees from Hamgyong-do province, to the north, found a spit of land to settle on--just temporarily. Squeezed between the sea and a harbor, they built makeshift homes on impossibly small plots of land, waiting for the war to settle so that they could return to their villages and farms up north.
And then, after three years of bloodshed, the DMZ was established, and they were stuck.
With the road home cut, these families had nowhere to go, and so they stayed. Many of the refugees were older--and in their dialect 'ah-bah-ee' means 'father.' (In standard Korean, the equivalent for 'abai' is 'ah-boh-jee') This refugee-camp in Sokcho morphed into a permanent neighborhood, nicknamed "Abai"...
Nowadays it's full of seafood restaurants with aquariums of LIVE seafood, going for your pre-dinner swim...Squid is an especially popular item. Not long ago, a popular Korean TV-drama was filmed near here, and so tourists from all over Asia end up in Abai-village, waited on by the children and grandchildren of Hamgyong-do province.