Hiking North Korea

North Korea is rightly known for evil tyranny, expressing itself in every which way from harsh prison camps to heartbreaking poverty to a bizarre relationship with Dennis Rodman.

But it’s worth noting that separate from the atrocities associated with humanity, the country boasts a breathtaking landscape.

New Zealand native Roger Shepherd, whose business, Hike Korea, offers guided tours of the Baekdudaegan, the mountain range that is central to the geology of North and South Korea. The below photos are all from North Korea. Visit Shepherd’s website to see more from both halves of the peninsula.

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Shepherd’s bio, from his website, explains how a second visit to the Korean mountains helped him redefine his vocation:

In 2009 I returned to Korea again, and walked its subsidiary ridges for six months, becoming completely overwhelmed by the adventure. I quit my job in the Police, returned to Korea, finished my MA in a mountain hermitage, and started Hike Korea in 2010. My business is a registered company with an ambition to promote Korean mountains to the world through hiking tours, photography, and writing. Its theme is to discover Korean identity through mountain.

And a terrific New York Times article about Shepherd explains that his ambitions go beyond sight-seeing. He’s dedicated to exploring something that unifies the fiercely divided Koreas, the mountains. In fact, that’s how he was able to get permission to enter North Korea in the first place.

Mr. Shepherd said that North Korean officials seemed to appreciate a foreigner who had come to the North not to talk politics nor to hand out aid, but with a genuine interest in their mountains. As in South Korea, the idea of reunifying the long-divided peninsula has a strong pull among people in the North, and his contacts in Pyongyang recognized the symbolism of his project.