There has been some concern lately regarding Mt. Baekdu and the possibility of its eruption. Volcanologist Hiromitsu Taniguchi claims that there is a 99% chance that Mount Baekdu will erupt within the next two decades. If it erupts, he says that it will be similar to the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in the United States. This eruption was rated as 5 on the Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI) and Taniguchi predicts that Mt. Baekdu will reach a 4 or 5 on the VEI. Eruptions designated as having a VEI of 5 or higher are considered “very large” explosive events, and occur worldwide on an average of only about once every two decades, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, a scientific agency of the U.S. government.”
As you can imagine, such an explosion could be detrimental to both North and South Korea, and even the surrounding countries. After the tsunami in Japan last year, North Korea requested to hold talks with South Korea regarding the volcanic activity but the two have failed to hold any further talks or conduct an on-site survey of Mount Baekdu since then. The volcano last erupted in 1903.
Mount Baekdu lies on the border of China and North Korea and is the highest mountain in the Korean Peninsula. The Chinese and Korean names of this mountain have similar meanings with the Korean name “Baekdusan” meanin “white-headed mountain,” and the Chinese name “Changbai Shan” meaning “ever-white mountain.” Koreans consider Mt. Baekdu as the place of their ancestral origin. Along with Mt. Jiri and Mt. Halla, Mt. Baekdu is considered as one of the three sacred and spirited mountains of Korea. Because of this belief, mixed with North Korea’s strong belief in propaganda, North Korea claims that Mt. Baekdu is the birthplace of Kim Jong Il, thus giving him sacred origins.
It is currently unknown at the moment how the two Koreas will deal with this problem. It is my hope that the two countries will be able to find middle ground in order to prepare for this possible catastrophe.