Thursday, May 27, 2010


She is 44 years old. She reached the summit of Annapurna, the 26,000-foot Himalayan Peak last month, and has been officially acknowledged as the first woman to scale the world's 14 highest peaks. (The Highest peaks are over 8000 meters, or 4.97 miles -- if you scale 14 of them you're on the list -- a short list -- not many climbers have managed to do it.)

Oh Eun-son, a South Korean, is a super athlete about whom we ought to know more. I could only find two short articles about the event.

We are certainly in touch with South Korea. We can phone there, or e-mail someone; we can read their daily papers; get their weather reports; see a Google map of Seoul. (There's a Google in South Korea, though Naver is their most-used search engine.)

Maybe South Koreans have been following the latest news on Oh Eun-son on Naver? It's odd, that so few facts are available. I mean, South Korea is an okay place -- not under the secretive, oppressive dictatorship of Kim Jong-il, of North Korea. (Maybe his anti-everything-rule (especially anything that's liberated or female) is infecting South Korea?)

I'd like to know more about Oh Eun-son.. What's her life is like? Is she rich or poor? How does she earn a living? Is she educated? How did she get into mountain-climbing? Who pays the expenses -- equipment, staff, actual costs of each climbing venture? How did she train? What are her plans. When she walks down the street, do people in South Korea recognize Miss Oh (or is she a Mrs.)?

Reuters News reported: "Oh Eun-son smiled as she received flowers, upon her arrival at Inchon International Airport." (That's it, not why she was there, or who gave her flowers.)

Here's a another quote: "Because of a sudden ominous feeling that something bad would happen to either me or my peers, including the Sherpas, on my way back to base camp," Oh told The Korea Times newspaper, "I carried a photo of Ko Mi-young who fell to her death last year." (Ko Mi-young was Oh's friend and rival.)

KBS (Korea Broadcasting System) footage showed Oh breathing heavily after each step in minus-20 Fahrenheit temperatures on snowy Annapurna. "I'm so happy, and I would like to share this joy with the South Korean people," said an emotional Oh Eun-son, murmuring, "Thank you, thank you."

Another newspaper said as she reached the summit, she climbed the last few steps on all fours. It would be great, to see a picture, or hear more about those last few steps, but ... zilch, nada, nothing.

I'm not a rah-rah fighter or big supporter of women's issues -- I never felt a need to fight for equality, equal opportunity or equal pay because I've always done what I wanted to do, and earned the most I could earn, and behaved publicly and privately, instinctively. (Sure, I've inherited attitudes from my mom, but Mom's attitudes haven't kept me from following my own instincts.)

But this 14 summits thing is a big deal -- a real victory for a woman.

I checked NOW (National Organization for Women), which has 500,000 members --a large Website, newsletter, and calendar of important events and achievements. To my amazement, there was no mention of Oh Eun-son on NOW's calendar of achievements, or on its events list, for the past year.

I just want women and men to know the name Oh Eun-son; enjoy the peppy, powerful sense of the woman that I feel when I look at her picture. Yes, I know this is a woman who had big dreams, pursued them, achieved them. And I want others ... women and girls all of the world to salute her! Yes ! And maybe get her on Facebook, and send her congratulatory notes and get some pictures and dialogue going on who she really is.


Anonymous said...

our news is to busy talking about tragedy and less about great things that are happening. Rarely do they show great things that people are doing. It is really sad.

deb said...

Wow, what a sad state of affairs that this courageous woman went virtually unnoticed by the world at large. What a huge accomoplishmnet!!! This goes along with my believe that anything is possible with hard work and determination. Thank you for sharing this very important story with the world. I’m sure glad your eyes are wide open:)

Vincent Wolfe said...

Amazing and inspiring! A sad reflection on our national and international news that this didn't receive more coverage. This is the type of story that helps change our world for the better, so we need to hear more about Oh Eun-son and people like her!

B.T. said...

It is a shame that Oh’s accomplishment was reported on such a small scale. It seems there is a greater focus by the media on the discrediting of her claim to have reached the summit of Mount Kanchenjunga in 2009 by her Spanish competitor, Edurne Pasaban (Fox News). Perhaps the attempted denouncement (which makes great news) and another controversy reported by Binaj Gurubacharya of the Associated Press suggesting the possibility that her team abandoned climber Tolo Calafat who fell ill and died during the ascent has contributed to the fog shrouding her achievement.

In regards to the woman behind the hero, only a small bit of insight was offered by ExplorersWeb describing her family interests, and Wikipedia merely reveals that she studied engineering at the University of Suwon in Gyeonggi Province. Oh commented for ExplorersWeb, "It's difficult to find a man sensitive enough to understand the life I lead.” She added, "My parents suffer while I am away—there is nothing I can do about it. But I can at least be serious enough not to get a husband and children involved in my complicated life-style." But that interview was concluded after she clarified, "I would like to have a family after I complete the 14x8000ers project though—as long as I find the right person, that is."

Oh Eun-Sun does not deserve controversy or denouncement. She deserves credit for her accomplishment, and, for the sake of women of all ages, she deserves to be praised openly as role model—an example that women can set and achieve goals of any magnitude and not succumb to the gender-based expectations so frequently set by the world.

Jerry McElroy said...

That is totally awesome! Some people deserve way more than they are given credit for, anyone who can accomplish a feat like this should be announced on the t.v. channels and news cast across the country. They should also go into a record book somewhere. Congratulations on that huge accomplishment!!!

Oliver Baer said...

This is amazing. Thanks for the info, Em. I'm glad someone is spreading the word about her. Unfotunately, I would bet that one of the reasons that there is not more information is based on her gender. The world, even more so Asian societies, do not necessarily seem to report successful women in a positive light. If one publicly states that her priorities come first before family, it seems to open a flood gate of scandal that the media uses to paint a picture of an irresponsible rung, or in this case mountain, climber who has no ethics or morals. It is a sad state of affairs.

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