Why write about paragliding in South Korea? Well, it's one part of Asia that has experienced a remarkable growth in the popularity of paragliding! If you're the traveling type and you're into paragliding, you might decide to combine passions and take your para-wing with you on a visit to this frosty, hilly part of the planet.
South Korea is a peninsular off the east coast of the continent of Asia. It forms a divide between the Sea of Japan and the Chinese Yellow Sea. That's right, it's just across the water from Japan, another significant paragliding country in Asia.
No wonder there is so much paragliding in South Korea, 70% of the country is covered by mountains. At an average height of around 1000m (3200 feet), they aren't huge but they are ideally structured for slope soaring in the prevailing winds.
The area around Seoul, the capital city, is no exception which is handy for visitors to the country.
The dramatic scenery and great soaring conditions in this area were the main reasons for locating a big paragliding festival here in 1993. The paragliders weren't the only things coloring up the sky apparently. Many pilots chose to paraglide in fancy dress! Mmm sort of conjures up images of Asian kite festivals. I guess it was a kite festival in a way! Whopping big, untethered ones.
From a couple of thousand pilots in the early 90's, the sport has really erm.. taken off. These days, there are over 10000 active pilots who go paragliding in South Korea. They belong to more than 150 paragliding clubs and schools across the country.
One of these pilots has a name familiar to many paragliding enthusiasts the world over. He is Gin Seok, head of the highly regarded manufacturer Gin Paragliders. Gin has had enormous input into the sport of paragliding in South Korea over the years. For example, he helped make the first Asian paragliding championship happen. And of course, Gin Boomerang paragliders have placed well in many big competitions.
If you've bought some plane tickets, don't forget to pack some seriously warm clothing if you want to go paragliding in South Korea!
The winters are very cold, in fact some describe the climate in the northern areas as Alpine. That makes sense, the latitude is similar to Europe, plus the presence of all those mountains must lift the average altitude a bit. The mornings are commonly quite frosty, although less so in the coastal areas.
Here are some basic weather stats for South Korea. Daily temperature maximums hover around 11°C (52°F). Annual rainfall is around 1300 mm, or 5.1 inches, and most of that falls during 90 days or so of heavy rain. About 30 of those days are during the rainy monsoon season of July and August. In those months, it might be hard to keep your paraglider canopy dry if you go paragliding South Korea.
Now to focus on a fantastic paragliding location that is just an easy 2 hours drive from Seoul. It's called Yangp'yung, and there you can access a number of launch sites connected to the scenic Mount Yoomyung. The nice thing about this site is the variety of launch sites which suit the full range of pilot experience and ability.
Most flying is done at various spots along a long, curving ridge that ends up at the summit, which tops out at 800m (2600ft). Nice wide grassy slopes near the base of the mountain make a good landing area for pilots of all levels. Although a bit trickier, top landings are possible too.
Flying from the summit gives you the most opportunity to find thermal lift, and cross country flights from here are possible in good conditions.
This is just one of the many, many paragliding sites to be found if you want to paraglide South Korea. In a land covered by so many low-lying spines and ridges, it is no wonder that there are hundreds, perhaps even thousands of possible slope soaring sites. Combine this with treeless slopes facing the sun, which trigger some pretty decent thermals and you can attempt some very interesting cross country flights. Treeless slopes? They are a legacy of the Korean war which left large areas of the land without forest cover.
All in all, you can expect a lot of variety in scenery and flying conditions if you go paragliding in South Korea. As I have emphasized elsewhere on this site, don't forget to chat to the locals each time you try a new site. They all have their quirks. The sites that is, and well, perhaps some of the locals!