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Champion Mountaineer Writes Letter From Annapurna

Posted October. 07, 2009 07:28,   


Editor’s note: The following letter was written by champion Korean alpinist Oh Eun-seon, who is trying to become the world’s first woman to scale all 14 Himalayan peaks.

Hello. This is Oh Eun-seon and I’m writing this letter from (the Himalayan peak of) Annapurna.

I decided to write this letter to express my gratitude to Koreans, especially Korean women who have shown great interest in my adventure. First of all, I had hoped to reach the summit of Annapurna on Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) to celebrate the holiday but failed. I truly regret my failure. Given the weather conditions, however, I believe it was a good decision to climb down the mountain. I’ll prepare myself for climbing more thoroughly to reach the summit within few days.

I’ve been told that many Korean women have been inspired by my story. On one hand, I feel I’m not deserving of such high praise but on the other, I feel responsible. I’ve been in love with mountain climbing since seeing Insu Peak on Mount Bukhan when I was 12 years old. I began climbing more actively after joining a club at university. After graduation, I worked hard weekdays to be able to climb mountains weekends.

I was thrilled when I got the chance to join a women’s expedition to climb Mount Everest in 1993. Though I failed to reach the summit, I grew so attracted to the snow-covered mountain. I previously held down several jobs to enjoy climbing. I used to be a private computer academy instructor and a government worker, as well as working as a visiting teacher and opening a spaghetti restaurant to earn money. Despite my hard work, I never felt tired since it was all for my dream to climb mountains.

I hear that today’s 20-somethings are called the generation without dreams. But I don’t believe this. Just as I had a dream to climb mountains, many Korean youths might have their own dreams. I hope Korean women do what they want to do. Of course, this doesn’t mean do whatever you want without a plan. Had I dedicated my life to climbing without working at it, my dream would never have lasted long. If you want to do what you like, you have to stand on your own two feet financially and psychologically.

If you do what you like, you can also achieve your dreams and find happiness. You will grow discouraged if you compare your life with those of others and care too much about money and honor. You have to remember that you can achieve your dreams and happiness only when you do what you like.

I know that one reason I attract people’s attention is that I am a female mountaineer. Both men and women tend to believe that men are strong and women are weak. Such a biased perception is worse in male-oriented organizations. The climbing community is no different. If you rely on someone else, you will definitely face limits soon. If you want to do something, you must be determined to do the work alone.

It is generally said that women in their 30s and 40s adjust themselves to reality. I think all types of lives are precious, including those of mountaineers and housewives. What matters is that you find happiness within yourself. I hope you can do what you like and find happiness.

Some married women are amazed at my small body, saying, “How could you achieve such great things?” They’re right. Anybody can do whatever he or she wants. You are no different. You should be more courageous and put on the gloves. Age doesn’t matter at all. My dream has just begun.

Sincerely yours,

Oh Eun-seon