Korean media slam whaling decision

By Paul Harper

Korean newspapers have criticised plans to resume whaling. Photo / AFP
Korean newspapers have criticised plans to resume whaling. Photo / AFP

Korean newspapers have joined the international condemnation of the South Korean government's proposed plans to resume whaling.

The Korea Herald, The Korea Times, and The Hankyoreh have criticised last week's announcement in their editorials.

On Thursday the country's delegation to the International Whaling Commission in Panama outlined plans to start whaling under a loophole in a global moratorium that allows scientific research.

South Korea carried out scientific whaling for only one season after the 1986 moratorium went into effect, however about 100 whales, most of them minke, are killed accidentally each year by commercial fishing operations.

The Korea Herald said the move to resume whaling appeared to motivated by complaints by fishermen that the "growing whale population is causing them an annual loss worth 438 billion won (NZ$481 million) per year in damages to their fishing equipment and fish consumption by whales".

The Herald said the delegation's argument that killing a small amount of whales is necessary to determine the amount and types of fish consumed by whales was not persuasive.

"If we accept their insistence on whaling for research purposes, to our regret, what seems more reasonable are suggestions by some international experts that Korea could carry out an effective study by using whales that are accidentally caught in fishermen's nets.

The Herald said a resumption of whaling would only serve to earn Korea a negative reputation it could have avoided.


"The whaling case should serve as a lesson for Korean officials to be more careful in handling issues related to international movements that are bound with a stronger sense of global solidarity than they think."

The Korea Times called for Seoul to "retract the whaling plan immediately", saying that Korea had more to lose than to gain by resuming whaling.

The Times described it as "burdensome" to see other countries condemn Korea for its whaling plans.

"In this environment, we believe that the agriculture ministry announced a hasty decision arbitrarily without sufficiently pooling public opinion," the editorial stated.

"More than anything else, the proposal to resume whaling is anachronistic. The government, for its part, can think of other options such as promoting whale tourism like in Australia and New Zealand."

The Hankyoreh said it "makes no sense" to start hunting whales again.

"The government explained the need for scientific whaling by noting a significant rise in the whale population over the 26 years the ban has been in effect," the editorial said.

"Officials have claimed that this has resulted in widespread damages that demand urgent action. But no research study to date has shown that the population has recovered enough since the ban that it would be acceptable to begin whaling again. Indeed, many say that illegal whaling and accidental catches have done enough damage to the whales' ecosystem to offset any effects from the protective measures. In particular, the minke whale population off the Korean Coast has been the subject of special IWC protections after a sharp drop in numbers in years past."

The Hankyoreh also cited a 2009 poll, which found 68 per cent of South Koreans were in favour of protection for whales.


"If whaling itself is legalised, there will be no stopping the overhunting. Measures to offset the damages to fisherman should take the form of things like whale ecotourism, not the permission of whaling."

- Herald online

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