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[Op-Ed] ‘Korean Route’ on Mount Everest

Posted May. 22, 2009 07:14,   


Something happened on the southwestern wall of Mount Everest, the world’s tallest mountain at 8,850 meters. Almost vertical, the cliffs extend as much as 2,000 meters from Camp 2 rising 6,500 meters to Camp 5. Unpredictable avalanches and falling rocks frequently kill mountaineers. This is considered the toughest route in the Himalayas, along with the western wall of Mount Makalu and the southern wall of Mount Lhotse. Of the 20 routes on Everest, only two are located at the southwestern wall. Both were developed by British and Soviet expedition teams.

Park Young-seok and his expedition team have conquered the peak of the world’s tallest mountain via the southwestern route, opening a "Korean route" on one of the 14 tallest mountains in the Himalayas. Park is the first in the world to achieve the Grand Slam of mountaineering by conquering the 14 tallest mountains in the Himalayas, the seven tallest peaks on the seven continents, and the three poles. He has shocked the world mountaineering community yet again. Choi Hong-keun, chairman of the Corean (Korean) Alpine Club, said, “It was already difficult to climb Mount Everest, but developing a new route is unimaginably difficult. Park’s record is a great achievement comparable in importance to the late mountaineer Goh Sang-don, who was the first Korean to conquer Mount Everest in 1977.”

Park first challenged the southwestern wall of Mount Everest in 1991. Despite his record-setting strides, he was forced to kneel in the face of the rough cliffs at the wall. He lost expedition members Nam Won-woo and Ahn Jin-sup in 1993, and Oh Hee-joon and Lee Hyun-jo in 2007. Park has suffered pain beyond imagination but has never given up. His success after four failures over the past 18 years is a testament to the promise he made to younger mountaineers who died young. He has also has sent a message of hope to the Korean people, who are suffering from economic hardship.

Nature is extraordinary treacherous on a mountain above 8,000 meters. Despite a flurry of challenges testing human limitations, Park has truly shown remarkable passion and perseverance and the spirit of challenge and exploration. The source of great progress in human history has been such an unyielding spirit of challenge. The Dong-A Ilbo pays its deepest respect to Park’s expedition team, including deputy Jin Jae-chang and members Shin Dong-min, Kang Ki-seok, Lee Hyeong-mo and Kim Young-mi, who have shown the courageous Korean spirit to the world.

Editorial Writer Kwon Sun-hwal (shkwon@donga.com)