En route back to our hotel from a spectacular hike to the Kuryong Falls we made a stop for a short walk to a viewing platform over Samil Lake.
Samil Lake is an 80 hectare freshwater lake, 9-13 metres deep, within the Mount Kumgang Tourist Region, in the south-eastern part of North Korea. It sits about 2 kilometres from the coast of the East Sea of Korea ( the Sea of Japan to non-Koreans) and 9 kilometres north-west of the border with South Korea.
The lake area was developed for large scale tourism, with the construction of walking paths, a viewing pavilion, a restaurant and boating facilities in the late 1990s/ early 2000s as part of the North-South ‘Sunshine’ rapprochement programme which lead to hundreds of thousands of South Koreans visiting the area each year: That is until 2008 when the programme was brought to an abrupt end following the fatal shooting of a South Korean tourist who wandered into an off-limits military area. Today very few international visitors visit the lake and facilities are majorly under-utilised, though there were a few locals out enjoying the lake in boats when we visited.
According to legend, the lake’s name, Samil, which translates to ‘three days’, dates back to the Silla Kingdom (57BC – 935AD) when a reigning king visited the lake and was so taken by its enchanting beauty that he stayed here for three days.
For a local, while knowing that the lake’s name is derived from the country’s early history is nice it is not as important as knowing the relevance of a red buoy in the water.
The buoy marks the spot where Kim Jong-suk, the wife of Kim Il-sung, famed guerrilla fighter and crack shot, demonstrated her marksmanship by shooting at a target positioned here. My reader may remember that I have previously written about another spot, in the north east of the country, where Mother Kim Jong-suk also displayed her extraordinary marksmanship – the Jipsam Revolutionary Site.
Alas, our itinerary did not permit us to linger for three days, like the Silla era king, but rather we just had time for a short walk through verdant pines, to the main viewing pavilion which afforded great views down onto the lake, including to a small pavilion located on one of its islets. As was the case when we visited the Kuryong Falls, the path to the pavilion here was also lined with slogans, engraved into the rocks, extolling the virtues of the country’s former leaders or telling of the beauty of the area, something which was rather self-evident anyway.
The lake is especially renowned for reflections of the surrounding mountain peaks in its tranquil waters. Unfortunately it was too dull for reflections when I visited but the scenic views and the tranquillity of the area certainly still made for a most enjoyable hours stop and short walk.
This is my last Mt Kumgang review
Return to the beginning of my North Korea (2018) – Mt Kumgang reviews – HERE