Four of 21 people who scaled the world's 14 tallest peaks came from South Korea, where mountain climbing is a pastime. Oh Eun-sun claims to be the first woman to do so.
Seoul, South Korea
But Koreans themselves had no disbelief. Hiking and mountain-climbing are popular hobbies in South Korea, where the land is 70 percent mountainous and citizens are enjoying more leisure time.
Even as young people spend more time at their computers, hiking trails remain packed on the weekends. On tougher climbs in Nepal, some sherpas have even learned to cook Korean food to cater to their clientele.
In a 2006 poll by the Seoul National University Sports Science Research Center, Koreans ranked hiking as their favorite sport, with 13.2 percent the vote. Soccer came in at 11.8 percent, while running ranked third at 11.5 percent.
“I think it’s part of a new leisure lifestyle, as South Korea becomes more like a developed country,” says Im Seong-hui, a restaurateur, looking down at Seoul with her husband from atop Munsu Rock in Mount Bukhan National Park.
Ms. Im also cites the shift by South Korean businesses from six-day workweeks to five days, which began in 2003. “People want to enjoy life and find new challenges.”
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