Mount Baekdu and Korean spirits 白頭山과 民族의 精氣

Contributor: Yongsan Legacy Team

Time flew fast, and in September 2018, President Moon Jae-in and Chairman Kim Jong-un of North Korea and their entourages went up to Mount Baekdu (spelled Paekdu in North Korea). And the First Lady of South Korea brought a plastic bottle of water scooped at Mount Halla, the southernmost island of Korea, and poured into the crater lake called “Heaven Lake,” on the peak of the mountain. Then President Moon scooped the Heaven Lake’s water into the same bottle and brought back to Seoul.

Topic: History, Yongsan Legacy

The crater atop Mount Paektu Photo source: Raymond Cunningham/Getty https://www.newscientist.com/article/

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The Mount Baekdu is a dormant volcano on the China-North Korea border. At 2,744 meters, it is the highest mountain on the Korean peninsula. Koreans consider the volcano and its caldera lake to be their country’s spiritual home as the legend says Korean kingdom was opened on the mountain in 2333 BC by Dangun who is the grandson of heaven.

It is legendarily believed by the both South and North Koreans that the Mount Baekdu spreads the energy and vitality over to the Korea through the Taebaek mountain ranges that longitudinally run through the Korean peninsula as the backbones of the North and South Koreas. One of the terminuses of the spiritual ranges happened to be located on the northeastern hill of the Main Post, U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan (near the Building S-1053) as one of the spiritual successions shared by the Mount Nam located in the middle of Seoul City. When the Yongsan Garrison had been occupied by the Japanese occupation army until August 1945, the Japanese Army was concerned about the Dangun’s nation founding morale, or national sentiment toward Japan, flowing into the hearts of Korean citizens in the metropolitan city. And so, they placed large stones on the top of the hill to stop the flow of the Korean’s independent ethos. The warning sign posted by the U.S. Army on the spot reads;

Warning-Cultural Resource. Do not remove or damage any portion of this artifact. USAG Yongsan, Directorate of Public Works, Environmental Division.

As we talk about the Korean’s spiritual mountain Mt. Baeku and its Taebaek ranges, 太白山脈, it reminds us of the Battle of Chosin Reservoir (Chosin is Japanese for Jangjin in Korean) in which China entered into the conflict by sending the People’s Volunteer Army. A brutal 17-day battle in freezing weather soon followed. Between 27 November and 13 December of 1950, some 30,000 United Nations troops were encircled and attacked by about 120,000 Chinese troops. The UN forces were nevertheless able to break out of the encirclement and to make a fighting withdrawal to the port of Heungnam. U.S. Marine units suffered heavy casualties.

Following the retreat of the U.S. Eighth Army from the port of Hungnam marked the complete withdrawal of U.N. troops from North Korea. The battel was decisive in the Korean War, which took place some 200 km from the Mt. Baekdu. (The parents of the South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in were among the North Korean refugees who were evacuated by a U.S. merchant marine cargo ship Meredith Victory at Heungnam Bay to Busan port in the South in December 1950).

Time flew fast, and in September 2018, President Moon Jae-in and Chairman Kim Jong-un of North Korea and their entourages went up to Mount Baekdu (spelled Paekdu in North Korea). And the First Lady of South Korea brought a plastic bottle of water scooped at Mount Halla, the southernmost island of Korea, and poured into the crater lake called “Heaven Lake,” on the peak of the mountain. Then President Moon scooped the Heaven Lake’s water into the same bottle and brought back to Seoul.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in fills a plastic bottle with water from the Heaven lake of Mt. Paektu, North Korea, September 20, 2018. Pyeongyang Press Corps/Pool via REUTERS

Now let’s try to intonate briefly the first part of the lyrics of the South Korean national anthem;

“Until that day when Mt. Baekdu is worn away and the East Sea’s water run dry, may god protect our country forever. The rose of Sharon and three thousand leagues (1,200 km) of splendid mountains and rivers; great Koreans, to the great Korean way…”

Dangun might have awakened in his mausoleum in Mt. Baekdu on this year’s Heaven Opening Day (October 3 開天節) by the new water from Mt. Halla poured into his water by the First Lady of South Korea. And the founding father might give great-grandsons Moon and Kim an idea how to reunite the beautiful fatherland of three thousand leagues he had had created 2333+2018 years before.

Thanks to the care of Environmental Division, U.S. Army Yongsan Garrison, the stone artifacts, containing the Dangun’s country founding spirit, placed some 90 years ago on the hill of the Yongsan Garrison quietly sit, watching the U.S. and U.N. Military personnel leave for their new home at Camp Humphreys, Pyeongtaek.

By Nam Sangso/Yongsanlegacy team.