On Wednesday, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) state news agency KCNA released a series of photographs showing Kim Jong Un riding a white horse to the sacred mountain called Paektu. Kim has often ridden to the mountain before taking important decisions and therefore it is considered to be a symbolic move. According to some reports, near the mountain, he vowed to overcome US-led sanctions that have “both pained and infuriated his people.”
“His march on horseback in Mt Paektu is a great event of weighty importance in the history of the Korean revolution,” KCNA said in its report. “Having witnessed the great moments of his thinking atop Mt Paektu, all the officials accompanying him were convinced with overflowing emotion and joy that there will be a great operation to strike the world with wonder again and make a step forward in the Korean revolution.”
The Significance of Mount Paektu for Koreans
Mount Paektu or Changbai (in Chinese) is a volcanic mountain that last erupted over 1,000 years ago. It is situated at the border between DPRK and China and for centuries has been considered sacred by the Koreans since they treat it to be the spiritual origin of the Korean kingdom, where the founder was born. At a height of about 9,000 feet, it is also the highest peak in the Korean peninsula. According to a report in the Straits Times, Kim Il Sung fought against the Japanese occupation forces here and North Koreans are led to believe that Kim Jong Il was born here (Jong-Un’s father). The Kim family legitimises their rule over DPRK by referring to the “Mount Baekdu Bloodline” (the mountain is also referred to as Baekdusan). A reference to the mountain is made in the South Korean national anthem as well.
Past visits to Mount Paektu
This is not the first time that Kim Jong Un has visited the mountain. In September 2018 South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim visited the sacred site as a part of the South Korean president’s three-day visit to DPRK. During the three-day summit, the two leaders discussed bringing peace to the Korean peninsula, and DPRK announced that it would shut down its key missile test facility if the US agreed to corresponding measures.
In 2017, Kim visited the mountain days after he announced DPRK’s plans to launch its largest intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). According to some reports, it is suspected that this visit might precede an announcement by DPRK to rethink their promise made to the US, that DPRK will not test long-range missiles. At present, the relations between the two countries have reached a stalemate.