July 04, 2020

Two Korean mountain jaunts: near but worlds apart
A veteran North Korea watcher recalls two formative hikes he wrote about in the 1980s, on opposite sides of the DMZ

Why does Mount Kumgang matter? Here’s what it means to me – and more importantly to many others, judging by the responses to the article below when it was first published. That was a long time ago: way back in 1986, on 16 October. A third of a century ago, indeed.

Not many people visited North Korea in those days. I was on the first ever tourist group from the UK – though many of us had a more than just touristic interest. Unlike today, the wider public hardly knew or cared about the DPRK at that time. With no Internet to spread Kimist memes around the planet, and no nuclear issue, the ‘hermit Kimdom’ cliché had much truth.