Paying our last respects to legendary mountaineer Park Young-seok  open the window of AOD

2011-11-04

A man whose drive and perseverance made him a legend, the preeminent Korean mountaineer Park Young-seok, is no longer with us. Park and two of his fellow climbers went missing while scaling the imposing south face of the eight-thousand-901-meter Annapurna in the Himalayas. After a final call to base camp to report that the trio was descending to the advance camp due to inclement weather conditions and the perilous rock falls surrounding them, Park and his compatriots went missing. Authorities launched an intensive search, blanketing the mountain over the course of 10 long days, but ultimately failed in their efforts to find them. With a heavy heart, Park’s admirers had no choice but to bid their last farewells to the three lost climbers on Thursday.

Park was an impeccable symbol of challenge. He was the first man in the world to complete the “true Adventurers’ Grand Slam,” a harrowing endeavor that entails scaling the 14 eight-thousand-meter peaks in the Himalayas including Mount Everest, as well as the Seven Summits, or the tallest mountain peaks on all seven continents. The true Adventurer’s Grand Slam also includes trekking to both the North and South Poles. He basked in the limelight as an Asian climber writing a new chapter in the Western-dominated history of mountain climbing and expedition.

Born in 1963, Park gained repute as the first Korean to climb Mt. Everest in 1993 without supplementary oxygen. From there, he conquered all 14 eight-thousanders of the Himalayas in just eight years and two months. Park appears in the Guinness Book of Records for climbing six of the eight-thousanders in just one year.

But even considering all of his records and achievements, Park’s most precious legacy is his undaunted spirit of challenge. Even after the mountaineer’s world-first true Adventurer’s Grand Slam berth, he enthusiastically launched another expedition to forge so-called “Korean routes” in the Himalayas for his fellow Korean climbers to follow. In 2009, Park pioneered a new climbing route on the southwestern flank of Mount Everest and named it the first “Korean route.” Park and his fellow mountaineers set out on a journey late last month to blaze another trail on the southern flank of Annapurna.

Park was a genuine mountaineer who stressed the process of seeking new routes rather than simply climbing on the trails of others. His undaunted spirit of perseverance, challenge and exploration, as well as his drive to test the limits of human performance under extreme conditions will long be remembered.

Captain Park is no longer with us; nor are his two younger colleagues, Shin Dong-min and Kang Ki-seok. However, their precious spirit of challenge will no doubt continue to be a source of great encouragement to the Korean people.

Koreans have lost a cherished national hero. We all offer our sincere condolences to Park Young-seok and his two younger colleagues, and pray they will rest in peace.

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