South Korean President Moon Jae-in had his wish granted Thursday, when he went up Paektusan in North Korea.
The question now is whether North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will go up the South’s tallest mountain during his expected trip to Seoul this year.
Paektusan is the highest mountain in the North, at about 2,750 meters above sea level, while Hallasan is around 1,950 meters. Abundant folklore and legends involving mythical creatures revolve around both mountains
Moon is an avid hiker, whose mountain trips date back to his college years, when he and first lady Kim Jung-sook scaled mountains on dates. But it is uncertain whether North Korean leader Kim shares this enthusiasm for hiking.
Paektusan Chonji (Pyeongyang Press Corps.)
In footage from the inter-Korean summits this year, Kim appeared to be breathless on short walks.
Furthermore, Moon and Kim did not exactly hike up Paektusan -- they rode in track vehicles and a cable car -- though the South Korean leader was still moved by the experience because he was able to travel up the mountain from North Korea instead of China. The crater lake Chonji on top of Paektusan is only accessible from the North Korean side.
It remains to be seen whether Kim will stand on the peak of the South’s tallest mountain before the end of the year.
A trip to Hallasan by the North Korean leader would carry diplomatic and historic significance. There is a North Korean song that goes “To greet the sun at Paektusan and welcome unification at Hallasan,” as highlighted by Kim’s wife Ri Sol-ju as the leaders of the two Koreas stood at the peak of Paektusan.
By Lim Jeong-yeo (email@example.com)