United Nations International Mountains Day
Commemoration, Celebration and Seminar in Seoul
Samgak-san     Gangbuk-gu     December  2008
Hosted by the Korean Mountain Preservation League and Friends
Speakers at the 2008 Seminar -- L to R:  Kyung Hee University Bio-Geography Professor Kong Woo-seok,
Halfmoon Bears preservation activist
Kelly Frances McKenna, "Korea on the Rocks" international climbing
association leader
Jake Preston,  my own self in half-hanbok, and KMPL President Shawn James Morrissey.
It started off at 1pm, as we were guided on a tour of our generous host, the
O2 Climbing Gym, arranged by the Gangbuk-gu District Office.  O2 is in the
Doseon-sa ipgu neighborhood on the main way up to Insu-bong, and claims
to have the world's largest indoor ice-climbing-practice wall (29 meters, 6
stories high).  After our seminar was accomplished, we moved up to the cafe
on O2's 5th floor, which offers a spectacular view of the
Samgak mountains...
...and after that was done we moved back up to the 4th-floor room to hold our seminar.  I was the first speaker,
talking about Korea's sacred-mountain traditions and
Sanshin mountain-spirits, the meaning of holding
ceremonies for them, and how this all could be used in the 21st Century as encouraging and inspiring
symbols of ecological preservation and humans living in harmony within  their natural enviornments.
speech on the imperatives of mountain-environmental preservation by Shawn Morrissey, founder of the KMPL
heartfelt speech on ecologically-minded mountaineering by Jake Preston, an educator and administrator
Korea on the Rocks, a mountaineering community that brings Korean and international climbers together
Then to finish the ceremony, an excellent salpuri [dance to repel bad fortune] was performed
another day well-done...
...and after my quick speech we all moved to the altar at the back of the room to hold
Sanshin-je ceremony, to add a sacred-participatory aspect to this day's events.
Seen out the windows of that well-sited room:  Samgak-san's Yeong-bong & Sang-jang-bong, and the southern slopes of Dobong-san.
I designed the mountain-spirit altar for that day In my own 21st-Century neo-traditionalist personal-meaning style (why be overly
:  stacks of fruits to symbolize the return to prosperity that we are all hoping for;  a big bottle of my homemade
deodeok-ju liquor (a medicinal wine made from roots gathered from Jiri-san soaked for 18 months in vodka); a sprig of
yeongji-beoseot (mountain-growing tree-fungus of longevity, frequently seen in Sanshin paintings, famous herbal medicine, yin to the
deodeok root's yang)
on top of it, a tub of fine powdered yellow clay (used for healing) from the eastern mountains behind it;  
pine-scented candles and incense.   Three bowls filled with
daechu (mountain fruit with medicinal properties that could be used as
snack while drinking the liquor)
, with a ginseng root (another medicinal-mountain-herb) sticking upside-down out of each one --
a gray toji bowl i got in Gyeongju to represent the ancient Three Kingdoms period of Korea's history and the Shilla Kingdom
(Gyeongsang Provinces),  a green cheongja celedon bowl i got north of Seoul to represent the medieval Goryeo Dynasty
and the Goguryeo Kingdom region
(northern Korean regions),  and a brown/ivory buncheong bowl i got at Gyeryong-san to
represent the recent Joseon Dynasty and the Baekje Kingdom region
(Jeolla, Chungcheong and Gyeonggi Provinces).  
Then another triad -- a white
baekja porcelain piece with calligraphy from a famous contemporary Confucianist as the
incense-burner, to represent the continuity of tradition until today;  another blue-on-white
baekja bowl from 18th-century China
decorated with Daoist
shinseon motifs, to represent Korea's very long cultural partnership with the "middle kingdom", filled
with clean mountain spring-water;  and a tea-bowl carved from California redwood, representing my own American roots,
filled with organic brown rice -- The water and rice symbolizing our basic nutrition from nature.  Altogether, trying to
symbolize all the beneficence we humans get from the mountain's precious but vulnerable ecologies and Korea's long
history of recognizing that, with so many multiple connections throughout its culture...
I explained the altar and the ritual, and then led the group in performing a neo-traditionalist Sanshin-je.
everyone got a shot of my deodeok-ju, and a daechu to nibble on, so that we were
"communing" with the mountain-spirits by sharing the food they had "tasted"...
speech on the condition of Korea's alpine flora and prospects for its conservation
by Kong Woo-seok, Professor of Bio-Geography at Kyung Hee University.
moving rundown of the plight of Korea's near-extinct bandal-geom [half-moon bears, with a passionate demand to
end their "farming-for-bile" imprisonment, by Kelly McKenna, expat activist on their behalf with the
Moon Bears Org.
Ms. Shin Min-gyeong the Tourism Director of the Gangbuk-gu
District Office handled the computer, and Mr Jo Se-jin of the
KMPL served most excellently as simultaneous translator.
L to R:  KMPL officer Ted Voelkel, senior Tourism prof
Peter Chung, Art History prof Sigrid Gaffal, and
[Korean Daoism] master Kim Hyun-moon.