Don’t be fooled. This little lady can out hike you. Then out drink you late into the evening. She is vivacious. A whirlwind.
She started less than 4yrs ago to build a hiking trail on the small island of her birth. Today her personal map has over 339km of trails (that number keeps increasing as villages request to be added) attracting perhaps a quarter million walkers a year.
It’s a huge success story in Korea. She started what’s been called a “hiking boom”.
Did she convince the government to build? No, she and her brother picked up shovels. And set out. The rest is history.
I love her life story.
Suh Myung-sook was a sometimes controversial career woman, shattering glass ceilings for women in the publishing industry. But after 23yrs, she felt tired. To rejuvenate, she made a pilgrimage to walk The Way of St. James (Camiño de Santiago). Then published a travelogue on that journey in Korean.
A fellow pilgrim in Spain first suggested the idea of a spiritual walking route in Korea, as it’s so industrialized. As the Korean people work so hard.
Suh Myung-sook made it happen. Out of the sheer power of her personal determination and charisma.
Suh Myung-sook is almost exactly the same age as me. But she’s accomplished so much more.
If you want to build a trail, get consensus of the local people, and build it. Start small. Recruit volunteers. Once you have some success, politicians will come looking for you.
On my best hikes I leave a Summit Stone at the highlight location. But on the Jeju Olle, I gave the Stone to Suh Myung-sook. She’s the spiritual centre of this new world class walk.
Note: her name is sometimes translated Suh Myeong-suk or Suh, Myungsook.