NATIONAL

[Newsmaker] Moon, Kim to visit sacred Mount Paektu

By Jung Min-kyung
  • Published : Sept 19, 2018 - 11:52
  • Updated : Sept 19, 2018 - 20:56

The leaders of the two Koreas will visit North Korea’s sacred Paektusan early Thursday, before wrapping up their third summit, according to Cheong Wa Dae.

“President Moon accepted Chairman Kim Jong-un’s request to visit Paektusan (with him),” Kim Eui-kyeom, a spokesman for the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae, said at the main press center in Pyongyang.

According to the spokesman, they will take a flight from Sunan International Airport to Samjiyon Airport near the mountain and ride a bus to a stop halfway up the mountain, before switching to a track vehicle to reach the peak. They plan to visit the famous crater lake at the top called the Heaven Lake or “Chonji” depending on the weather. 

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visits Mt. Paektu, North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency reported in December 2017. (Yonhap)

A specific itinerary has yet to be released, but Kim Eui-kyom said Moon will embark on a trip back home following his Paektusan visit.

First lady Kim Jung-sook will accompany Moon, but it is yet unknown whether Kim Jong-un’s wife Ri Sol-ju will also travel to the mountain on the North Korean border with China.

This will be the first visit to Paektusan via North Korea by a sitting South Korean president.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in had hinted that he hoped to visit Paektusan, on the first day of his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

On his flight from Seoul to Pyongyang on Tuesday, Moon said that he had refused an offer from a friend in China to visit the mountain located on the border between China and North Korea because he wished to climb it from the North’s side, according to pool reports.

During his first meeting with Kim at the truce village of Panmunjom in April, Moon said that he believed Kim would fulfill his long-held wish of visiting Paektusan and the Kaema Plateau.

Radio Free Asia, citing the head of a Japanese media outlet, reported Tuesday that North Korea has been repairing roads around the 2,744-meter volcanic mountain, and the region including the China-North Korea border has “entered a state of alert.”

Kim is believed to have visited the mountain before making important decisions over the years.

He visited the mountain in December 2017, a month before he made his New Year’s speech, in which he expressed willingness to send a delegation to the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics in the South.

He was also spotted there in November 2013, a month before he executed top officials including Jang Song-thaek, his uncle and political guardian, and again following North Korea’s fifth nuclear test in September 2016.

Paektusan has taken on mythological status in North Korea, with North Korean history being rewritten to claim Kim’s father -- Kim Jong-il -- was born on the mountain.

Experts in Seoul say that the two leaders’ visit to the mountain would be an indication that the two Koreas believe they held a successful summit, with progress in inter-Korean ties. On Wednesday, Kim agreed to take additional steps on denuclearization, such as the permanent shutdown of the Yongbyon nuclear facility, depending on the US’ corresponding measures.

By Jung Min-kyung & Joint Press Corps (mkjung@heraldcorp.com)