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  • Record of Travels in the Diamond Mountains (Kŭmgangsan yugi, 1922) Motivations (Tonggi)1
  • Yi Kwang-su
    Translated by Ellie Choi (bio)

I don't really recall when I first heard the word "Kŭmgangsan" and from whom but I do remember that it was five years ago when I was twenty-four that the desire to visit first entered my heart. The next year when I was twenty-five I was asked by a newspaper company to tour the Chŏlla, Kyŏngsang, and Kangwŏn provinces, and arranged to visit Kŭmgangsan last on our itinerary.2 Because of poor health, however, I only got as far as Kyŏngju. Since then I have been determined to visit Kŭmgangsan but I was out of the country for a while, and did not have the opportunity, until now, that is.

Thinking of the "mountains and rivers" of my native land from abroad strengthened my longing for Kŭmgangsan. A dreary existence on the South China plains3 didn't afford me an [End Page 347] opportunity to look upon steep mountains and lustrous rivers, and somewhere my longing to see the mountains and rivers of my homeland—especially Kŭmgangsan, the most beautiful of them all—turned to a sorrow always tucked away deep in my heart. It is through recent good fortune that I am able to embrace again the mountains and rivers of Chosŏn, and have been given a chance to visit Kŭmgangsan.

My knowledge of Kŭmgangsan is extremely sparse. I had heard fragments about it in the past and knew random facts such as, it is in Kangwŏn Province and contains 12,000 peaks, that anyone who stands on the highest slope on Tanballyŏng is supposedly inspired to shave his head and take the monk's cloth, and that a Chinese man was said to have written once, "Had I been born in the state of Koryŏ, I would want to look upon Kŭmgangsan." I had also seen an advertisement posted in front of Namdaemun, saying that the railroad company had built hotels in Changan Temple [at the foot of the Kŭmgangsan range] and Onjŏngni, and that from October 10th to December 15th sold it reduced-rate one-way and round-trip fares to tour the area by car. I knew there were many Kŭmgangsan travel accounts by people in the past, but did not know where to get hold of them. I had also heard that Sim Ch'ŏnp'ung and Kim Haegang had recently published accounts of their trips but could not find these either.4 This fair Kŭmgangsan, this most splendid Kŭmgangsan has not been made known to the world because it has not met its rightful owner. The Chosŏn people are learning about their very own Kŭmgangsan through foreigners.

Thirty years ago a certain British missionary toured Kŭmgangsan and published his travel account in a London magazine. There is also a travelogue published in German by a German Catholic priest and a year ago, Kikuchi Yūhō introduced a Kŭmgangsan travel journal in [End Page 348] the Ōsaka mainichi simbun (Osaka Daily News). I have forgotten the names, but a book of Kŭmgangsan paintings by a couple of Japanese artists and a stunning pictorial journal of Kŭmgangsan by a Japanese photographer are also making the rounds these days. This year another Japanese painter plans to tour Kŭmgangsan for over a month to paint the scenery, and Pyŏng Yŏngno published a travelogue called "Traveling [through] Kŭmgang" in the Chosŏn ilbo (Korea Daily News) but again I was traveling, and could not get a copy.

[Kŭmgangsan] our heaven-sent treasure has not been introduced even amongst our own Chosŏn people. Even though I have wanted to visit Kŭmgangsan now for four, five years, I have had no way to get information about it. If we want to be the rightful owners of Kŭmgangsan, our younger siblings and children should know its position, location and names of famous places, photographs, and paintings, and memorize poems and songs about...


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pp. 347-350
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