Even as North Korea cuts ties with South Korea, the two nations share a common history and geography, notably the Baekdu Daegan mountain range.
A foreign hiker named Roger Shepard looks to this ancient mountain culture as a source of unity for Korea.
The 46-year-old New Zealander has had “unprecedented access” to the mountains on the North Korea side and looks to bring other people with him through his company, Hike Korea. So far he has spent nearly three months in North Korea (DPRK) over four visits.
He got this access by remaining as apolitical as possible.
“I was there to take photos of the mountains and that’s what I did,” Shepard told David Slatter of NK News.
Shepard shared some pictures and commentary (edited for clarity) with Business Insider.
The sacred peak of Paektusan is the highest mountain on the peninsula and where the Baekdu Daegan ridge — known as the energy life-line of the Korean people — begins.
The Baekdu Daegan ridge begins at Cheonji lake on Paektusan mountain in DPRK and contorting its way south for 1050-miles to the sacred peak of Jirisan in central South Korea.
The main core of my team consisted of three members of the NZ- Korea Friendship society that helped me obtain permissions to go to these remote zones of the Baekdu Daegan Mountains.
Young cadets of the Korean People's Army take shelter under an umbrella in the famous larch pine forests of the Paektu-gowon plateau.
Due to fierce bombing by the American led United Nations forces of the Korean War, most of the Buddhist temples in the North were destroyed. A total of 65 remain in reasonably good condition in DPRK.
Often my journey's saw us taking breaks by the seaside to recuperate our bodies and minds. Here a brother and sister play on a pristine beach called 화진포 Hwajin-po.
The spectacular Myogilsang Buddhist relief carving (918-1392 A.D.) in the famous Inner Kumgangsan Mountains, which previously had been closed since the fatal shooting of a Korean tourist.
This young girl, dressed in Chinese PLA uniform from the Korean War, was a local guide for secret camps from anti-Japanese revolutionists camps.
The squeaky spokes of the bicycle of a young mother and baby were the only sounds I heard as I sat on the side of the road in the tranquil silence of the North Korean countryside. As a New Zealander, the the sound of silence is like medicine too me.
A seaside village near North Korea's sacred Chilbosan mountain, located on the east coast of hamgyeiongbukdo.
The Koreans believe that their founding Kingdom was by King Tangun (born around 2333BCE). He is supposed to have obtained the immortal status of Mountain Spirit on Kuwolsan Mountain in Hwanghaenamdo province in what is now DPRK.
A cinema in the small town of Eunheung located on the flanks of the Baekdu Daegan in Kaema-gowon, Yanggangdo, DPRK.
The roof of Korea is a 1800 meter high plateau where the local people's lifestyle includes farming goats, sheep, cattle, and growing a staple diet of potatoes, as rice cannot grow in these attitudes.
A group of young boys get curious with me in the township of Eunheung in Kaema-gowon near the Baekdu Daegan in Yanggangdo, DPRK.
Tigers in Korea are now extinct, although rumours abound they may still exist in parts of the Baekdu Daegan mountain system in DPRK.
Farmhouses in the north are not too dissimilar to the old ones in the south — peaceful abodes made from timber and clay.
A tractor had broken down on the muddy mountain road we were driving on near the Duryusan mountain, and we camped there for the night.
Hwang Sung Chol of the NZ-Korea Friendship Society taking a break on our difficult hike on the unchartered slopes of Duryusan (1323 meters).
Someone had filled most of our plastic water bottles with acorn soju (distilled wine) instead of water. By chance a brother and sister were effortlessly passing over the mountain and led us to a hidden spring where we replenished our bottles.
Me checking out the next photo angle with Duryusan guide Mr. Pak Geum Chol. We carried an array of foods with us on our hikes, including wild honey's and potatoes we roasted over our camp fires.
My team on the summit of Duryusan mountain. What was to be a one hour hike turned into an 8 hour ordeal.
My team on the summit of Huisabong (2117 meters) on the Baekdu Daegan in Deoksong-gun, Hamgyeongnamdo, DPRK.
Chilling out after a hard climb up too Hyunam hermitage near Jangsusan mountain in Hwanghaenamdo province, DPRK.
A shepherd takes his goats to pasture up the mountains near the Baekdu Daegan in Sinyang-gun, Pyeongannamdo, DPRK.
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