Mount Paektu is a central part of the political mythology of North Korea: more than 100,000 Koreans are said to travel each year to visit Mount Paektu, a political pilgrimage in North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea).

More than 2,700 metres above sea level, on the border with China, Mount Paektu is the highest peak in Korea. The mount has several lakes of striking beauty. The largest is called Heaven’s Lake.

It is said to be the birthplace of the legendary founder of Ko-Choson, the first kingdom in Korea, King Tan’gun. According to the official history of the current regime, Kim Il Sung fought against the Japanese occupation from 1936 in the so-called secret Camp of Mount Paektu, where his son, Kim Jong Il, is said to have been born.

In North Korea, it is an honour to go to Mount Paektu. A couple climbs listening to the very popular song “Let’s go to Mount Paektu” by the North K-pop female band called Moranbong. Groups of students with red flags run to reach the summit. Once at the top, they laugh while posing for pictures. The atmosphere is relaxed and joyous. However, guards patrol the paths and call to order Korean pilgrims displaying outbursts of joy.


Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) – North Korea, 2019