Whale embassy: showdown and turnaround

Feature story - 26 May, 2005
Yesterday our Whale Embassy Activists, on the ground in Korea, received a visit from angry representatives of the Jangsaengpo Development Association in the city of Ulsan. Our campaigner Jim Wickens tells the story of what happened next - and how we must help the people of Ulsan rebuild their lives without whaling.

"It all began at 6pm as promised. As the local development associationleaders walked into the embassy, the police cars idled to a haltoutside. The showdown had begun. What followed was a rollercoaster of ameeting with a wonderful result.

The local leaders spent a long time discussing the history of theircommunity, how the number in their 'dying' community had dropped form16000 to 1600 in only 10 years. They talked about how they accepted apolluting factory upwind so that they could have the whale researchcentre and whale museum as well.

With trembling hands as they spoke,these community representatives obviously did not want to be fighting.They explained that the embassy was okay, but the mounds with the whaletails behind were painful for them

, striking an all too real chord ofthe past, whilst

preventing them from embracing the future

with oceansday and the opening of the whale museum. At that moment one of the crewran into the meeting to whisper in our ear that three coach-loads ofriot police had just arrived and parked on the ground outside theembassy. After sending climbers up the mast, we continued with ourmeeting, while the police officers listened close by.

We explained that the whale tail mounds were erected by us toillustrate the certain

demise of whales and whaling communities ifwhaling is ever resumed

. We offered to take down the mounds to show thegenuine intentions of our goodwill, both to the whales and to thecoastal fishing communities as well. They could not believe what theyheard and were genuinely blown away. We explained that we would like to

help find alternative ways to economically revive the community in asustainable but profitable way

.

Suddenly the president of the communitygroup said he wanted to learn about whale watching and would welcomeall the advice that we could give him on this. The guy next to him saidthat he would like to get the children from Jangsaengpo school to comeand meet us and help design banners for oceans day to hang from themast. Obviously over the moon, they added that because it was soobvious that we meant well, that Greenpeace could stay until the end ofthe IWC

, and if we have any problems, then we should get in contactwith them immediately. After a brief discussion of whale watchinghistory in Australia, we all agreed that we would

meet very soon totalk about each other’s concerns

in more detail.

The meeting ended with a spontaneous round of applaus

e and by the timewe emerged from the embassy, the riot police had gone, disappearing asmysteriously as they had arrived. And so it was that the organizationthat wanted to blockade the Rainbow Warrior in Ulsan port last monthand that publicly promised direct action against Greenpeace only 24 hoursago, ended up agreeing to reconnect our water, meet soon to discusswhale watching,

send their children to the embassy to learn more aboutwhales

and insist on having a group photo together before they left.

Wehave now

opened up a dialogue and potential friendship

with the mosthistorically pro-whaling community in Korea, and a group who arepushing for the whale factory as a means of reviving the community. Wenow have a month to create, persuade and help sell an

alternative future forthe community of Jangsaengpo

.

The feeling in the camp is great and we are having pizzas to celebrate!"

Tell the Korean government that whaling is not the answer!

Ask the Korean and local governments to help the people of Jangsaengpo with real solutions - not whaling.

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