Earth Island Institute logo, tap or click to visit the Institute home page

Go Back: Home > Earth Island Journal > Latest News > Post and Comments

Latest News

Stop South Korea’s Whaling Scam

Nation Proposes to Continue Whaling via Trumped-up “Scientific Research” Program

At last week’s International Whaling Commission in Panama, the government of South Korea surprised member states with an announcement that they would shortly start killing whales under scientific permit, much like Japan does now.

whale hunt Photo by Blake MaybankMinke Whale off Tadoussac, Quebec. Whaling is an outdated practice. The government of Korea
should join the twenty-first century in seeing that whales are worth more alive than dead.

For several years, the government of South Korea has made allusions to wanting to go whaling like the Japanese. But whaling commission delegates were still caught off guard when the Republic of Korea delegation announced their own phony “scientific” whaling proposal.

Apparently, having just one country embarrassing itself globally by pursuing commercial whaling via a trumped-up research program is not enough!

Joon-Suk Kang, chair of the South Korean delegation, made the announcement, amid discussion of the government of Japan’s proposed coastal whaling proposal and the annual rant against the interference by Sea Shepherd against Japan’s so-called “research” whaling in the Antarctic. Korea sounded just like Japan during last week’s whaling commission meeting, having voted (along with 20 other countries) against a proposal to turn the South Atlantic Ocean into a whaling sanctuary and arguing that commercial coastal whaling has much in common with aboriginal subsistence harvests by Eskimos and other subsistence peoples.

But as Monaco's whaling commissioner, Frederic Briand, noted: "Scientific whaling is an obsolete and sad consequence of a document drafted 60 years ago. There's no reason to do it, given the enormous body of scientific literature obtained via non-lethal means."

New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully slammed the Korean decision as "a serious setback for those who are committed to conservation of the species."

In response, South Korean delegate Park Jeong-Seok voiced anger at the foreign criticism, according to the New Zealand Herald. "As a responsible member of the Commission, we do not accept any such categorical, absolute proposition that whales should not be killed or caught,'' he said. "This is not a forum for moral debate, this is a forum for legal debate. Such kind of moral preaching is not relevant or appropriate in this forum.''

Apologies to Mr. Park Jeong-Seok, but biologists note that the minke whale stock that Korea would target off their shore is one of the most depleted stocks of whales on Earth. Furthermore, if scientific research is really the purpose for the new proposal, why not use the hundred or more minke whales Korean fishermen “accidentally” kill each year.

Following heavy criticism from a number of nations, this week the South Korean government appears to be backtracking on its whaling proposal. At least according to Australian foreign Minister Bob Carr, who says he had been assured by his South Korean counterpart Kim Sung-Hwan that Seoul had decided against going ahead with the program.

But we still do not have any definitive statement from South Korea that they absolutely won't go whaling. Nor has it given any indication that it will address the high levels of bycatch of minke whales in fishing nets.

Politically, South Korea is in a position to take on a major role on the world stage. But for that, it should work with nations like Australia, New Zealand, and the US, all of which have condemned its proposed whaling plans. The government of Korea should take heed of the global denunciation of whaling and join the twenty-first century in seeing that whales are worth more alive than dead.


Contact the Korean Embassy and urge them to drop their plans for issuing scientific whaling permits. Instead, encourage them to stop the accidental killing of whales in fishing nets and promote green alternatives like whale watching and eco-tourism.

Mr. Choi Young-jin, Ambassador
Embassy of the Republic of Korea
2450 Massachusetts Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20008
Phone: 202-939-5663/5660
Fax: 202-342-1597


Mark J. Palmer
Mark J. Palmer is Associate Director of the International Marine Mammal Project.

Email this post to a friend.

Write to the editor about this post.

Subscribe Today
cover thumbnail EIJ cover thumbnail EIJ cover thumbnail EIJ cover thumbnail EIJFour issues of the award-winning
Earth Island Journal for only $10



Leave a comment

Comments Policy

Remember my personal information?

Notify me of follow-up comments?

Please enter the word you see in the image below:

View Posts by Date View Posts by Author


Four issues for just
$15 a year.

cover thumbnail EIJ

Join Now!