87-year-old to return to Tibet desert

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87-year-old to return to Tibet desert


Park Chul-am

An 87-year-old, retired professor, who explored the deserted district in Tibet in 2007, has said that he wants to return to the region one last time.

“I want to explore the unknown world,” said Park Chul-am, who worked at Kyunghee University. “As [Fridtjof] Nansen and [Roald] Amundsen each first explored the North Pole and South Pole, and [Edumnd] Hillary first explored Everest, I want to leave a record behind that Park Chul-am was the one who explored the deserted district of the Changtang Nature Reserve.”

The deserted district is located in northern Tibet and is uninhabitable for humans. It is located 5,000 meters (16,400 feet) above sea level, and the temperature drops to minus 30 degrees Celsius (minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit) during the winter. The place is rarely open to the public, but Park traveled the area with a team of 14, including Chinese geologists, in 2007.

“Everything there was original,” Park recalled. “No one ever took a step there. The stars in the sky were the size of my fist. It was mesmerizing.”


그가 무인구에서 찍은 호수풍경이다. 그는 “무인구에는 780여 개의 호수가 산재해있다”며 “담수호가 적고 염호(鹽湖)가 많다”고 전했다. [사진 박철암 교수]

He will now return to Tibet in August and ask authorities for permission to explore the region again.

Park first heard about the deserted district from a college president in Tibet in 1996.

“The president said that no one lived there then, and no one will live there 100 years later,” Park explained. “My heard was throbbing. I felt the urge to go there.”

The professor has a history of fascination with remote and exotic places. Before he became interested in exploring Tibet, he was the first person to try climbing one of the unconquered Dhaulagiri peaks in the Himalayas.

Although he did not make it to the top, his strong will for expedition continued. He read in a newspaper article that China had opened Tibet to the public and went there for the first time in 1990. Ever since, he has visited around 30 times, though mostly to unrestricted areas.//////////////////

“It was just another world,” said Park. “For instance, I saw a shepherdess who was blowing on a flower between her lips to make a sound while I was taking a break from walking on the plateau.”

By Lee Hoo-nam [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]
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