Sokcho-si, Gangwon-do, South Korea
Tree of Hearts on the JettyOn a jetty jutting out into the Sea of Japan, toward a pine-covered lighthouse isle, this metal tree of hearts is a rendezvous spot on the NE coast of South Korea. Visitors from all over Asia come to Sokcho to eat seafood and to see where scenes in "Autumn in my Heart," one of the first internationally famous Korean melodramas, were filmed. (The open-mouthed fish-"bench" makes for a curious pairing, no?)
To get here from Seoul: catch an 'express bus' from Dong Seoul Bus Terminal or Gangnam Express Bus Terminal. Buses from Gangnam let you off, after a few hours, at the Sokcho Express Bus Terminal, which is just a five minute walk from this jetty. Adjacent is a 1-km-long stretch of white sand popular on weekends.
This unpretentious town is still a bit off the beaten path for most foreign visitors, although Seoraksan National Park is just west of Sokcho. The jumble of new construction (and lax zoning laws) gives this port-town kind of a frontier feel, but the people are friendly and the seafood is fresher than fresh.
(Note: within Korea, "The Sea of Japan" is officially referred to as "Donghae--The East Sea.")