News / Asia

South Korea Still Considering Resumption of Whaling

Environmental activists demonstrate with a mock whale, during a protest against the plans of the South Korean government to resume hunting whales for research purpose, in central Seoul, July 6, 2012.
Environmental activists demonstrate with a mock whale, during a protest against the plans of the South Korean government to resume hunting whales for research purpose, in central Seoul, July 6, 2012.
SEOUL — South Korea's government says it has not abandoned the possibility of resuming whaling despite international criticism.

The country's Land, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Ministry informed lawmakers Tuesday it is studying whether the country should engage in what it terms "scientific research whaling."

The ministry says it is urgently establishing a task force, staffed with specialists, including environmentalists, to examine the matter.

Sources say the controversy has split the government with opponents warning the country could face a harsh diplomatic backlash.

The United States, France, Australia and New Zealand, have already condemned South Korea's preliminary whaling plan.

A natural resources division official at the environment ministry, speaking on condition he not be named, tells VOA the ministry wants international opinions taken into consideration, not just domestic concerns.

Media reports last week, quoting unnamed officials, said the Presidential Blue House and the prime minister's office had decided to sink the whaling plan. But an environment ministry official says those reports are not correct.

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Han Hye-jin says the topic is still under consideration.
Han says the government's basic line is that it will carefully deal with the matter by listening to opinions of concerned organizations, as well as member states of the International Whaling Commission.

In 1986, the IWC banned commercial whaling, amid fears that some species faced extinction.

Han Jeong-hee, the oceans campaigner in Seoul for the environmental group Greenpeace, laments pro-whaling forces in government appear again to be at the helm.

"Suddenly they just reported this about the task force and going back to the scientific whaling decision. This is very disappointing," Han said. "We hope the government changes their mind again and goes for non-lethal research."  

The chairman of South Korea's main opposition Democratic United Party, Lee Hae-chan, says there is little doubt some people in coastal communities support the resumption of research whaling because of the potential commercial benefit.

Lee says, although South Korea no longer faces poverty and thus does not need to rely on whale meat for protein, if there is a legitimate need for scientific research then limited whaling might be acceptable.

Lee Man-woo, the vice representative of the Whale Culture Preservation Association, in Ulsan, a coastal city, tells VOA sighting surveys are not sufficient to get accurate data about the condition of the largest marine mammals.

The pro-whaling official says meat from hunted whales should not be wasted. His group proposes auctioning it to provide quality food at a reasonable price for tourists and those who enjoy whale meat. Currently a small plate of whale meat sells in Ulsan for as much as $50.

Lee and other proponents contend whaling is a part of Korean culture going back thousands of years. And, they note Japan's use of a loophole in the global moratorium to engage in so-called scientific whaling.

Japan - and now South Korea - contend there are so many whales in their coastal waters that the mammals are eating too much of valuable and dwindling marine resources.

Japan has faced wide international condemnation for its research program which has involved killing thousands of whales in the northern Pacific and near Antarctic waters since the mid-1980's.

Earlier this month, the IWC blocked proposals from Japan for coastal communities to carry out small-scale whaling. It also rejected Denmark's request for indigenous groups in the Scandinavian nation to be able to hunt 1,300 whales over the next six years.

Both Japan and Denmark are warning they will withdraw from the IWC if their proposals continue to be rejected.

However, the IWC approved continued indigenous whaling in Russia and the U.S. state of Alaska, as well as for the Caribbean island nation of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

South Korea could formally present its research whaling proposal next year when the IWC's scientific committee meets.

Youmi Kim in the VOA Seoul bureau contributed to this report

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

You May Like

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Russia’s Prosecutor General to Review Legality of Baltics Independence

Move, announced Tuesday, has alarmed Baltic States and strained even further their increasingly tense ties with Moscow More

US Urged to Keep Up Pressure on Cuba Rights

Communist government continues to hold dozens of political prisoners, tightly restricts freedom of expression, uses threats, intimidation to discourage critics, according to activist groups More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
July 25, 2012 4:39 AM
Stop being emotional. Among IWA members, pro-whaling to anti-whaling is 39 to 49 in 2010. It is not one-sided to anti-whaling. Be rational. We Japanese have no longer seen whale meat at home since several decades years before. There still remains very very a few of old fishermen who are making their livings by whaling for a chickenfeed now. Be easy they will extinct before whales extinct. The problem is only how they can afford to live for the time being, I suppose.
In Response

by: Jin Rei
July 25, 2012 8:37 PM
It's really sad and desperate that they are using money from the Tsunami Relief Fund to support the "research" of whaling for meat.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs