Violence threatens peaceful protest at Whale Embassy in South Korea

Press release - 26 May, 2005
Greenpeace and the Korean Federation of Environment Movement (KFEM) have received threats of violence against the peaceful occupation of a whale meat factory site in Ulsan, South Korea, which they have occupied for over one month. In a letter and at a press conference held by several local organisations it was announced that at 18.00hrs today, people will arrive at the ‘whale embassy’ to destroy it (1). The embassy was built by the activists on the site to highlight the perils faced by the world’s whales (2).

"The 'Whale Embassy' and our personal safety have been threatened byviolence all so that they can prepare for an oceans' day ceremony onthis very site, but how can the Government seriously considercelebrating the oceans on the site of a proposed whale meat factory? Itwould be funny, if the consequences for the whales were not soserious," said Greenpeace International Oceans Campaigner, Jim Wickens.

Greenpeaceand KFEM say that building a whale meat factory will hasten the declineof Korea's few remaining whales, by industrialising the trade in whalemeat, a trade which scientists predict will push Korea's whales toextinction. In Korea, whales can be brought ashore and sold for meatonly if they are accidentally caught. However Korea has accidentalbycatch rates up to a hundred times higher than nations that do nothave a whale meat trade (3).

"It does not take a genius tosee that in a country where dead whales are worth up to $100000, thatthis industry will encourage the deliberate targeting and illegalhunting of Korea's disappearing whales", said Wickens. "It is a bitlike building an ivory factory in Kenya for elephants that haveaccidentally died."

This threat comes as the whalingdebate within Korea reaches new heights, only weeks before Ulsan playshost to the 57th IWC meeting in June. Greenpeace state that theGovernment is sending out clear signals that they intend to follow theJapanese Government's tactics of resuming scientific whaling under theexcuse of fatal scientific research. This claim is backed up by theKorean Government's agreed plans for a dolphin cull of several hundreddolphins over the next few years.

Contrary to the claimsof environmentalists, the government defines the factory as a 'checkpoint for dealing with accidentally caught whale carcasses in anenvironmentally-friendly and sanitary manner'.

"It isquite clear that the only thing being sanitized here is the truth;these whales are destined to become part of a lucrative whale meatindustry, an industry that will lead to the extinction of Korea's minkewhales within our lifetime," said Yeyong, Choi, from KFEM.

Other contacts: Jim Wickens: Greenpeace International Oceans Campaigner +82 102 233 0760Mhairi Dunlop: Greenpeace International Media Officer +31 646 162 026Yeyong, Choi: KFEM Director +82 164 587 488

VVPR info: For further information on the KFEM and Greenpeace campaign to protect whales, see: www.comebackwhales.com/news/

Notes: (1) A copy of the letter can be found on www.greenpeace.org (2) Countries represented at the embassy include Spain, Germany, UK, USA, Brazil, Austria, Columbia, Slovakia, Denmark, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, the Czech Republic and Italy. (3) In 2003 alone, Korea "accidentally" caught in excess of 84 whales, compared to less than five per year in non-whaling nations.

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