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, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

You May Like

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in pubic More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies 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.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid