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Despite Illness, Korea’s Top Mountaineer Visits Dokdo

Posted October. 11, 2005 03:02,   


Korean mountain climber Park Young-seok realized one of his lifetime dreams by setting foot on Dokdo Island yesterday.

“I have been to the seven continents of the world and the South Pole, but this is the first time visiting Dokdo for me. This is an emotional moment,” he said.

This May, he completed mountaineering’s Grand Slam by becoming the first human being in the world to ascend the 14 highest Himalayan peaks of 8,000 meters or more, the seven summits, and the three poles.

Park joined the “Dongguk Guardians of Dokdo,” a group of about 100 students, faculty and alumni of Dongguk University formed to commemorate next year’s 100th anniversary of the school’s establishment, to visit the island.

Park stayed on Dokdo only for 45 minutes amid strong winds, but it was almost a life-or-death adventure for him.

From September 16 to October 3, Park visited the South Ridge base camp on Mount Everest, which is 8,848 meters above the sea level. He made the visit to pay his respects to the souls of his colleagues, Nam Won-woo and Ahn Jin-sup, who lost their lives on Everest in 1993.

Upon returning from that trip, Park received a call from the Dongguk Guardians of Dokdo and promised to join the group. The next day, however, Park had to be admitted to Dongguk University Hospital in Ilsan with four other members of his team for symptoms of dysentery.

At that time, it seemed almost impossible for him to go to Dokdo. Nevertheless, being a person of strong determination, Park was never going to give up as long as there was a one percent possibility. On October 8, the first day of the Dokdo trip, he rode an ambulance to Dongguk University Hospital in Gyeongju while being treated with medication. After spending the night at the hospital, he sailed for Dokdo with the rest of the group.

When Park was on an expedition to the North Pole in April, he heard that Japan was claiming sovereignty over Dokdo. In protest, Park took a photo with a placard reading “Dokdo is Korea’s territory” at 86 degrees north latitude, which touched the hearts of many Korean people. Yet, once again, Park proved that nothing can take away his special affection for Dokdo.

Chang Jeon jeon@donga.com