Photo/IllutrationRoger Shepherd, second from right, poses with local residents on Mount Taeheulbong in Yanggang province, North Korea. (Provided by Roger Shepherd)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

KYOTO--Roger Shepherd dreams of the day when the people of South and North Korea can travel freely along the peninsula’s single mountain range, which he has climbed in both countries.

That’s the inspiration behind Shepherd’s upcoming exhibition here, which features his photographs of the natural beauty of the mountains of the two Koreas.

Shepherd, a 50-year-old New Zealander living in South Korea, said a mere glance at the mountains is enough to convince anyone that Korea is one.

While working as an English teacher for a cram school in Daegu, a city in southern South Korea, from 1999 through 2000, Shepherd climbed nearby mountains.

He soon learned about the Baekdu Daegan, a magnificent mountain range that starts from Mount Baekdusan, a peak straddling China and North Korea, and runs from north to south like a spine on the back of the Korean Peninsula.

He returned to New Zealand to become a police officer, but he continued trekking along South Korean mountains during his holidays. He was also fascinated by the beauty of the mountains of North Korea, which could be seen spreading to the north of the Military Demarcation Line that separates the two Koreas.

Shepherd took up residence at the foot of a mountain in South Korea in 2010 and founded Hike Korea, a mountaineering guide company. He traveled to North Korea via China on eight occasions from 2011 to walk along the Baekdu Daegan.

Shepherd said a non-Korean like him has the opportunity to climb mountains in both Koreas, but that the demarcation line prevents South and North Koreans from free mountaineering.

He held photo exhibitions in Seoul and Pyongyang, the capitals of the two Koreas, in 2015.

The exhibition in Kyoto is being organized by Chong Ujong, a 33-year-old lecturer of modern and contemporary Korean history with Otani University, who felt an affinity with Shepherd’s activities.

The first Inter-Korean Summit was held 16 years ago, when Chong, a third-generation ethnic Korean in Japan, was in high school. But the mood of rapprochement has since been lost, and the structure of inter-Korean confrontation is casting its shadow on the society of ethnic Koreans in Japan.

“I want visitors to feel what ‘Korea’ in its own right, which is neither about the North nor about the South, looks like,” Chong said.

The exhibition, which will display about 20 photo panels and other materials under the banner of “Just Korea,” will be held from Sept. 20 through Sept. 30, except on Sept. 25, in the Korukan hall at Otani University. Admission is free.