It’s important to understand the topography of the Korean peninsula, because in a sense it is its very topography that allows people to walk it continuously.
The Korean peninsula is approximately 1200kms in length with 75% of its landscape being mountainous. The South is the most heavily populated with 50 million people living in about 30% of hospitable landscape. About 25 million people live in North Korea occupying 20% of hospitable landscape. This means that wherever you travel in Korea you are always surrounded by mountain scape. The peninsula does not have exceptionally high mountains like what we see in the Himalaya, but there abundance gives them a large sense of presence when standing beneath them. They are also steep sharp sided mountains with pointed peaks that add to the illusion of their immense presence. However, this presence is no bluff and Korean mountains because of this shape are indeed tough features to climb, particularly if there are many in a day that you wish to pass. However with mountains come spurs and ridges and Korea has a rather unique mountain system, perhaps unique to the world.
Once upon a time the Korean Kingdom stretched as far north as Manchuria and Mongolia. Now its current border with China lies on the banks of two large rivers. They both form off one mountain. The south western moving river is the Tumen and the north east flowing river is the Yalu. In the middle of these two waterways is Korea’s biggest and largest mountain, Baekdu-san (White Head Mountain) standing at 2744m. This holy mountain is the only land-bridge that connects the Korean peninsula to the rest of Asia and is the curator of all 75% of its mountain scape on the Korean peninsula, how?
From Baekdu-san runs a ridge line called the Taebaek Sanmaek, that stretches south then turns southwest forming the Sobaek Sanmaek across central South Korea, and then south until it stops at South Korea’s highest mainland mountain Cheonwang-bong (1915m) in the Jiri-san (exquisite wisdom) Mountains. This ridgeline is about 1700kms in length, and it never crosses water making it an authentic ridge and watershed to the entire Korean peninsula. This ridge line is called the Baekdu Daegan (White Head-Great Ridge) and it holds sacred and spiritual significance to the Korean people. You can refer to the Korean Mountain Culture page for more about this.
From this Baekdu Daegan run 14 subsidiary ridges called Jeongmaek which run all the way to the coastal seas controlling the direction of Korea’s major rivers. From these Jeongmaek run a series of lesser ridges or spurs called Ji-maek (energy ridge) of which there are thousands of that create a huge mandelbrot effect across the peninsula. What this unique and wondrous mountain scape creates for the recreational hiker is a mountain system that acts like an atlas of ridges that are all interconnected with each other, making it possible in Korea to walk anywhere in the mountains using ridges and spurs that connect the hiker to all of its cities, villages, rivers, and seas.
These ridges and spurs have been used by monks, soldiers, scholars, and peddlers for millennia, and Hike Korea now uses these same features to connect its historical, religious, and national treasures together.