Recently, I had the chance to explore the alleys of Daegu with a TV crew from Busan MBC. It was an amazing experience and I have to give a huge shoutout to Noe Alonzo for recommending me for this project. It was filmed over 4 days in Daegu and will air sometime weekly on MBC in Busan.
Before I get into the locations, I just want to touch on the experience as a whole, as this was part of a tv series where the team from Busan MBC follows a foreign photographer around the alleyways of not only Korea but abroad too. However, due to the COVID travel restrictions this season is dedicated to Korea.
I have been on TV here and there over the years and am certainly no stranger to interviews and whatnot. However, being a host and the main focus of the episode was very interesting. It was also a little intimidating as well because even though I have been to Daegu many times, I had not been to any of the areas which we covered in the 2 episodes that I filmed with them.
However, I must say that the team from Busan MBC was one of the best groups of people that I have ever worked with. They were professional, courteous and above all patient. Bear in mind, that Korean is not my native tongue and I still struggle with the language quite a bit. So we had an amazing translator on hand to help with the language barrier. With that being said, I still had to deliver my lines on the spot in front of not only the crew but bystanders as well.
This was one of the places that I felt like I had stepped back in time but also that I really don’t belong there. By that man was that the place gets super busy with scooters and trucks flying around every corner. People that live there have a hard enough time as well and having a group of people wandering around and (at times) blocking the roads, was not really a good thing.
That being said, it was interesting to get a bit of the history of the area. This market was located near to the Beongai (Lightning) Market and Daegu Station. These markets have a long history in the area and Chilsung especially seems like it is on its last legs. However, people still need it for their livelihood.
It was interesting talking to the elderly people that came out to see what we were doing there. When the “PD” or Producer told one lady that we were filming a documentary about the market and other alleys she basically told us that they should tear down the whole market. We were a little shocked as part of the documentary was to raise awareness for these areas.
At any rate, if you are looking for a little grit and have a penchant for street photography then this is your place. There is a texture and life here. Interesting shops and dark alleyways to discover are around every corner. If you want to see the other side of life in Korea, this place should be an area to check out.
This was an area that I found interesting and what I sort of expected from a city like Daegu. It was a market that popped up around the US military base and sold electronics in a time when foreign electronics were hard to come by. Now, it looks a little dated but it was very interesting to walk through and see what things they had to sell.
I was also impressed that there was a camera shop there as well. Interestingly enough, the shop came in super handy as I forgot my battery charger for my camera. The crew was using only Sony cameras and if I didn’t find a way to charge my batteries I was in trouble. I came to this realization standing in front of a camera shop.
I managed to get an off-brand charger for a very reasonable price and let me tell you being able to charge all my batteries that night was a huge relief. Also, not having to pay the the full price for a brand name charger was also nice. It is places like this that have a number of options that you might not find in the flashier department store camera shops or online with the exception of Amazon or Gmarket.
It was great to also be able to talk to some of the merchants in the market and hear their stories. The one gentleman that we interview spoke English well and you could tell that he was a genuine good person. He friend was a rescue cat that he saved off the street and now reside in his little shop. I have no idea what he fixes there but it looked extremely technical.
Kim Kwang Seok Alley
This was an area that I never heard about before the shoot and had no idea about the singer as well. . However,Kim Kwang Seok’s music and legacy means a lot to the people of Daegu. His untimely passing still tugs at the heart-strings of all of his fans. The alley pays tribute to the singer and it really is something to see. So many people enjoying his music and interacting with all of the art displays along the alley.
The area used to be quite run down and the adjoining market was slowly fading away. With the construction of the alleyway, people have once again returned the area and business owners are delighted. It was evident with the amount of people that were there on the night that we were filming.
I also had my picture taken by a young university student and he shared some tips on where to find film cameras in Daegu. I will have to check those places out when I get back there someday.
Korean Herbal Medicine Alley
This area was one of the older areas in the city and it was said that it goes back 300 years. It was the capitol for Korean traditional medicine in the old days and sadly, outside of tourism, it is starting to disappear as well. This area might not be as photogenic as the other areas but it certainly has some interesting stores.
Basically, you can find pretty much anything to do with traditional Korean medicine here. From ingredients to pharmacies, it is all here. So if you have a sharp eye, you can catching some great street scenes. Another thing to keep your eyes peeled for are the history buildings. This area is seeing some gentrification and a lot of the old buildings have been made into trendy cafes and whatnot.
The Refugee Village
This area was an interesting place. Located just behind Kyungpook University, it was were the refugees from the Korean War settled. They basically built houses out of whatever they could find and the area is like a maze. There are some interesting finds in this area for sure.
The brightly coloured houses were a part of a plan to liven up the area but it sort of fell flat. It just looks worse in my mind and the money should have been spent on helping the people that live in that area or to help improve the area in general. Sadly, many people are moving out of this area in favour of the newer style of apartments.
This was an interesting time here because it felt like we were shooting in a ghost town. There were not many people around and the ones that have stay I felt struggle each day. It was an eye-opening experience to say the least.
The Print Alley
This was a place that was super interesting to me. While it may just look like a regular street in Korea that is filled will similar shops, it has a colourful history. The area has moved around quite a bit because of the increase in costs and land value but everyone stuck together through the different moves.
What I liked most about this area was the sense of hard work that you could see in the shops. These people were experts and could get the job done. They were not just jumping on the next trend or something like that, they are experts in their field and are there to stay. Sadly, as times change this impacts their business greatly. Thus, how long this alley will be around is up in the air, especially after the COVID pandemic.
All in all, this experience and the city of Daegu really impressed me. It was interesting being on the other side of the camera for a change. I won’t lie, I am quite nervous about what I will look like on TV especially for 2 whole episodes. Thankfully, I know that the crew from Busan MBC will do their best as they are an amazing group of people.
The show is called Forbidden Alley and will air on Busan MBC. I have not yet seen the full show as I was a little out of it when I returned to Korea as it was airing but I am sure that it will be great. Thank you again for the crew and Noe for this opportunity.