[Viewpoint] Condors, or the 8 who died in Peru

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[Viewpoint] Condors, or the 8 who died in Peru

The Andes are derived from the Quechua word “anti,” meaning “high crest.” The Andes range is the longest continental mountain range in the world. It is about 7,500 kilometers (4,660 miles) long and, on average, stands 4,000 meters (13,123 feet) tall. It extends from Venezuela to Colombia to Ecuador to Peru to Bolivia to Chile to Argentina and includes more than 100 peaks taller than 6,000 meters.

A group of veteran engineers, including a team of Koreans, went to the Andes to survey sites for a hydropower plant, and their helicopter crashed into a 5,000-meter-tall mountain due to bad weather. While the engineers died in the crash, their pioneering spirit to export infrastructure programs to the mountains of South America remains.

The pioneering spirit of the Korean people has made today’s economic growth possible. In the late 20th century, their Korean ancestors went abroad to work as nurses and miners to support their families and educate their younger siblings and children. They worked overtime and overnight to meet their deadlines, and their fingerprints were worn off and feet cracked. The laborers in the Middle East laid the foundation for the growth of the Republic of Korea. The daring spirit and confidence opened up overseas markets and won construction projects. Thanks to their efforts, Korea could become the powerful economy it is today.

The exporter’s legacy was passed down. The first generation moved around the world with confidence, and today’s generation is armed with expertise and language skills. The first generation sold textile and manufactured goods, and today’s generation is selling high-tech devices, ideas and technology. The eight heroes killed in the crash were world-class specialists in hydropower and civil engineering.

Hydropower projects for building power plants and dams always accompany risk. They are built at underdeveloped sites such as mountains and valleys. These projects can only be accomplished with a pioneering spirit.

In the late 20th century, Koreans fostered development with the positive mindset of “we can do it.” The globalized era of the 21st century calls for a stronger pioneering spirit. Globalization has made competition more intense and infinite.

Here in Peru, young Korean entrepreneurs are mining at the altitude of 5,000 meters and drilling petroleum in the Pacific. The pioneering spirit has already been engraved in our DNA.

The Republic of Korea will stand tall as a developed nation in the 21st century. That’s why we need to cherish the memories of the eight heroes who displayed passion and a sense of mission to develop the overseas market.

The Andean condor living high in the mountains is a large vulture. To the Incans, condors meant “freedom not to be bound by anything” and “the one who delivers God’s will.” They also believed that when heroes die, they come back as condors.

Peruvian composer Daniel Alomia Robles wrote “El Condor Pasa,” inspired by the free spirit of the condor. The song was covered by Simon and Garfunkel and became a worldwide hit. Just like “Arirang,” El Condor Pasa is a song of the pain and hardship of the South American Indians.

Have the eight heroes become the condors? The condors solemnly guard the Andes as the men are so powerless before the grand and fickle forces of nature. I pray for the repose of the victims.

Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.

*The author is the Korean ambassador to Peru.
By Park Hee-gwon
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