Fingerless Korean goes missing after climbing all 14 Himalayan peaks

A fingerless South Korean mountaineer went missing after achieving the record-breaking feat of climbing all of the world's 14 highest peaks in the Himalayas, officials here said Monday.

"I received a call that Kim Hong-bin went missing on his way down from the peak," Lee In-jeong, president of the Union of Asian Alpine Associations (UAAA), said. "I heard that climbers there tried to rescue him, but failed."

Kim reached the summit of the 8,047-meter-high Broad Peak, located in Pakistan's Karakoram Range, at 4:58 p.m. Sunday (local time), becoming the world's first person with a disability to accomplish such a feat.

But he is known to have gotten lost at 7,900 meters above sea level and sent a distress call at 9:58 a.m. on Monday. Nearby climbers went there but failed to rescue him.

The Korea Alpine Federation said it is also looking into the situation.

The 57-year-old Kim, who lost all of his fingers to frostbite about 30 years ago, has become the first disabled person in the world to climb all 14 eight-thousanders in the Himalayan and the Karakoram ranges. All told, Kim has become the world's 44th and South Korea's seventh person to summit all 14 peaks, the alpine club noted.

President Moon Jae-in congratulated Kim on his feat.

"You gave more pride and hope to the people, who are tired of the coronavirus," Moon wrote on social media.

Kim's accomplishment has also given great courage and confidence to disabled people around the world, the president added.

A team of six mountaineers, including Kim, left for the Himalayas on June 14 and set up a base camp at a 4,800-meter location of Broad Peak on July 14. Kim's team initially experienced difficulties due to bad weather but managed to reach the peak after four days of full-scale climbing.

The expedition was originally scheduled for last year but had been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kim reportedly lost all 10 of his fingers due to frostbite while climbing up the 6,194-meter-high Mount McKinley, the tallest mountain in North America, in 1991.

But he overcame his disability with an indomitable will and a fighting spirit to become the world's first disabled person to conquer the highest mountains on the seven continents.

Kim reportedly said he hopes his success will give encouragement to all South Koreans exhausted by COVID-19.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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