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

    Post-White House, Obamas to Rent Washington Mansion

    Nine-bedroom home is 3 kilometers from Oval Office, near capital's Embassy Row; rent estimated at around $22,000 a month

    Red Planet? Not so much!

    New research suggest that Mars is in a warm period between cyclical ice ages, and that during Ice Age Maximum over 500,000 years ago, the red planet was decidedly ice, and much whiter to the naked eye.

    Taj Mahal Battles New Threat from Insects

    Swarms of insects are proliferating in the heavily contaminated waters of the Yamuna River, which flows behind the 17th century monument

    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.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora