In an old post written in Korean 한국에 살때: 제 소개있습니다 I wrote about 5 things I loved most about Korea, ranging from food, culture, to landscapes. I briefly mentioned these 5 things in my post and hope to write about each one individually to share with you all my 5 loves of Korea.
One of the most beautiful features of Korea I enjoyed while living there was being able to see its majestic mountain landscapes each and every day. Something about the lush greenish brown mountain backdrops made the views of Seoul/Yongin more majestic in my eyes.
My views of Korea’s mountains were somewhat striking to locals and native Korean classmates of mine, but not so much to me since I was living in a foreign new land. Being a suburban girl I was use to much green in my hometown, however, living on an island formed by a flat glacier there were no mountains back home. Korea, however, is a rocky mountainous peninsula that extends out into East Sea. Due to the regions glacial formation the Korean peninsula is nearly 70% mountainous.
With so many mountains nestled in or around Korea’s cities/towns, and few flat-lands, many Koreans like to make use of the terrain and go hiking/mountain climbing. Myself included. Prior to moving to Korea I had always imagined myself mountain climbing, but not like the professionals who climb Mt. Everest in Nepal. Thankfully, Korea’s mountainous terrain does not surmount to Mt. Everest, Fuji, Whitney, or Kilimanjaro in size. The tallest peak in Korea is its southernmost mountain – Mt. Hallasan (6,400 ft) which is shield volcano located at the center of Jeju Island off the Korea’s southern coast. Though not as tall as its sister mountains around the world Mt. Hallasan is just as breathtaking upon first sight.
Even though I lived surrounded by mountainous terrain during my years abroad, it was not until my second year that I climbed my first mountain. While still enjoying my post-grad summer I ventured to Korea’s eastern coast to visit the the beautiful peaks of Mt. Soraksan located outside of Sokcho in the Gangwangdo province. Recognized for its sharp-pointed lush peaks and beautiful park & natural waterfalls, Mt. Soraksan is a must see mountain for anyone visiting the Sokcho area. The mountain terrain is so large climbers can spend up to three days in total completing all of the trail paths.
I was fortunate to be able to climb part of Mt. Soraksan back in 2014. It was a great experience, and a great wonder. Being on one of the highest points makes you feel small and the world more big than before. It also brings a sense of calm and closeness to nature.
Since this past winter I have climbed 4 mountains in Korea, have driven by car up 1, and have taken a train through 1. I have climbed Mt. Geumjeongsan, Mt. Soraksan, Mt. Gwangaksan, and Mt. Hallasan, I have driven by car with a friend up part of Mt. Bukgaksan, and I have taken a Korail train to highest peaks of Mt. Taebaeksan. What stands out the most from each and every mountain was the period in which I visited. Some I climbed in the summer, fall, winter, or spring. Some I climbed solo, with classmates, friends, or my BF. Some I got to see oceans from top, lakes at the bottom, visit hidden temples along the trail paths, or see new city landscapes. Each and every mountain, each and every climb, and each and every time was different.
One thing I love about Korea is its beautiful mountains. There’s something beautiful about each and every one, which I believe is why so many Koreans love mountain climbing. Within the last decade the Korean people have re-developed a cultural norm of hiking/ mountain climbing, and returning to more closeness to nature as their ancestors had once done since the Joseon-era. My boyfriend is no exception. He enjoys hiking just as much as any ajusshi(아저씨)(*a friendly term for older males in Korean). It’s a little surprising that me and my boyfriend did not spend more dates hiking together since we both love mountain climbing. The funny part of finding out later on about our love for mountains was discovering that we have both climbed the same mountains at different periods. It was nice to discover we share a mutual hobby that is not only breathtaking, but also fulfilling for the heart, soul, body, and mind.