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

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy 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.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
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.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid