Four elderly Korean hikers die in Japanese Alps

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Four elderly Korean hikers die in Japanese Alps

Four of five missing Korean climbers were found dead yesterday following a Monday hiking accident in the Japanese Alps.

The Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed yesterday afternoon that of the five men who went missing in a storm the previous day in the Central Alps on the island of Honshu, only one had been rescued.

Three of the hikers were found dead yesterday morning and 64-year-old Park Hye-jae was rescued. Despite foggy conditions, the search for the final man continued.

His body was discovered at around 5:00 p.m.

The five elderly hikers, all in their 60s and 70s, were members of a Busan mountaineering club that had traveled to Japan on a six-day tour put together by a local travel agency.

The group of 20 Korean mountaineers ranged in age from their 40s to their late 70s. They began trekking up the Central Alps course, which lies in Nagano, central Japan, on Monday morning.

The five went missing while climbing the 2,931-meter-high (3,205-yard-high) Mount Hoken on Monday, but rescue workers did not discover them until early Tuesday on a route between Hoken and the 2,728-meter-high Mount Hinokio. The course is considered difficult even for seasoned mountaineers.

The four men found dead include 78-year-old Park Moon-soo. Local police said they were not breathing when they were discovered, and that the accident was likely the result of bad weather. A raging thunderstorm had struck the mountain, with temperatures dropping to 10 degrees Celsius (50 Fahrenheit).

The Korean consulate in Niigata, northwest Honshu, said the hikers did not have a proper local guide. It confirmed that the other hikers who had also been on the trip were safe and were being questioned by police.

The Korean Foreign Ministry said it was cooperating with Japanese police and the consulate in Niigata to speedily issue passports to the bereaved family members.


BY SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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