National Park, in North Jeolla Province
Rugged Wilderness along the Baekdu-daegan
|A view of endless mountains shrouded in clouds,
from Deokyu's peak on a rosy dawn (from KNTO brochure)
Deokyu-san is one of Korea's great mountains, with a 1614-meter summit (Hyangjeok-
bong) that ranks as South Korea's 5th-highest peak. It is the source of the Geum-gang
River, South Korea's 4th-longest, and parts of it belong to the Baekdu-daegan (although
not that summit, curiously). Its rather remote position in North Jeolla Province at the
border with South Gyeongsang, just about exactly between Sogni-san and Jiri-san, leave
it with relatively few visitors despite its legendary beauty. Few Buddhist temples or
Shamanic shrines are found here, and no great ones at all; for this reason alone it does
not qualify as one of Korea's Top-33 Sacred Mountains, but only within the Top-100.
The National Park was created in 1975 out of 219 km² of steep mountains and valleys,
from the Muju-gun County area in the north (including Jeoksang-san 1034m, Baek-un-san
1123m, 1010m & 1055m, Geochil-bong 1178m and Seongji-san 992m. Dumun-san
1051m is on the west side, and the Baekdu-daegan snakes in from Daedeok-san to the
northeast with a series of lofty peaks, passing into the park area for 20 km before passing
through the great peak called Namdeogyu-san (1507.4m) at the southern end.
The park's vast area includes the Muju Ski Resort (hoping to bid to host the Winter Olympics
someday), the Muju-gucheondong Valley (famous for its length, beautiful sights, purity and
remoteness); and for religious assets, there is only Anguk-sa Temple (specially devoted to
defense of the nation) in the north, Baekryeon-sa Temple (humble and remote, on the eastern
slope of the main peak) in the center and Yeonggak-sa Temple (founded as an isolated retreat in
877) in the far south -- charming institutions on beautiful sights, but altogether remarkably
little for such a vast area of mighty peaks -- contrast with the nearly 100 or so significant
temples and shrines on Jiri-san just south of here...
There is a good side to this, of course -- Deokyu-san National Park is a great place to
hike through large patches of wilderness where you can find wild animals but few other
humans -- anywhere away from the central area (Muju Resort & Gucheondong Valley)
should offer this pleasure to those who seek it.
This term Deogyu is "Virtue Generous",
signifying the universal religious value,
the virtue of generosity.