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More specifically from Busan (but other sites also possible).

My plan is to do Japan - South Korea - Hong Kong by sea.

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Should it be direct or is it OK to go via PRC? – gerrit Jan 15 '13 at 8:51
Both are okay with me :) – user981916 Jan 15 '13 at 8:59
up vote 6 down vote accepted

There are a number of ferries between South Korea and China, via Tianjin or Qingdao. Both South Korea and China have a well-connected railway network, so it shouldn't be a problem to travel onward by train from the arrival point in China to Hong Kong.

For what it's worth, the same page also lists ferries between South Korea and Japan.

South Korea to Hong Kong is quite far, so I would be surprised if there was any direct ferry. One might hope to travel via Taiwan, but unfortunately, there is no longer any ferry connecting Japan and Taiwan. However, see hippietrails comment below and this answer for more information.

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woah, great info... thanks a lot buddy :) I do like the idea of taking the train better than sitting on a stinking ferry. – user981916 Jan 15 '13 at 9:14
@gerrit: No Japan/Taiwan ferry anymore, but Star Cruises operates the Keelung-Ishigaki-Keelung route almost weekly in summer – hippietrail Jan 15 '13 at 11:59

Another question on this site actually indirectly answers this. Although there are no scheduled ferries between Hong Kong and Korea, you can take a 'freighter cruise' between the them:

Considering that you are traveling on a freighter, it may not fit your travel plans however it does seem possible.

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Sounds interesting but do you have more info on that? AFAIK most freight lines only offer journeys lasting two weeks and more, typically roundtrips or intercontinental crossings and no “hopping” between neighbouring harbours. – Relaxed Jan 24 '15 at 14:00
I'm not sure @Relaxed . I never tried freighter travel myself, however I imagine that there isn't a great deal of flexibility. – Andrew Feb 4 '15 at 23:48
I have read a few things about it since writing this comment and I learned that there are short freighter cruises (5-7 days) so maybe it's possible. – Relaxed Feb 5 '15 at 0:09

Just to answer a specific point from your question, there are currently no ferries from Busan to China. The only ferries currently from Busan are to various Japanese ports.

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Are you sure? When I was in Busan some months back the ferry terminal was full of Chinese people. Do you have some reference for this? – hippietrail Apr 2 '13 at 0:24
I think you would need to find a reference that there is a ferry! There likely was one a long time ago (maybe more than 10 years ago), however to my knowledge only west coat ports such as Incheon still have China Ferry services. I tend not to trust Korean websites since the English versions are usually not updated, however the VisitKorea site does indicate that only Japanese ports are served from Busan: – Andrew Apr 2 '13 at 1:58
A Korean reference would be the Busan Port Authority, that only lists Japanese destinations : – Andrew Apr 2 '13 at 2:01
I was sure there were ferries to Qingdao (I think). Maybe I'm confusing with the ferry terminal at the other end of my trip, Shimonoseki Japan. I'll check my stuff ... – hippietrail Apr 2 '13 at 2:57
I thought of an explanation: Busan is becoming more of a cruise destination these days. It is not impossible that a Chinese cruise ship was visiting when you were there. – Andrew Apr 2 '13 at 3:06

Building up on one of Andrew's answers (+1), there are many freighters on this route and some of them do take passengers. There are a number of agents selling these trips and while they often focus on long transcontinental trips, it's sometimes also possible to book “partial journeys” between two ports on a longer freighter line.

As an example, this German agency lets you pick your starting point and destination from the list (“Teilstrecken möglich” means something like “partial route possible”). It's not especially cheap however, a trip from Busan to Hong Kong would cost about EUR 2300.

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