Exposed - Korea's plans for new whale meat factory

Feature story - 8 April, 2005
Ulsan, host city of this year's International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting, is enthusiastically building a whale museum and a brand new marine park in anticipation. But we have uncovered plans, noticeably absent from the Ulsan council's bright and cheery website, that include a whale meat factory and whale burial ground. Is this the "city for whales", as they like to say, or the "city for whaling"?

Activists in Ulsan protest Korean plans to return to whaling.

We have set up a protest camp, or 'Whale Embassy', at the proposedwhale meat factory site, working together with activists from theKorean Federation for Environment Movement (KFEM). The whale museumwith its prominently displayed harpoon boat, and a street of whale meatrestaurants, overlook the site which is covered in piles of rocky soil,since the marine park is still under construction. A 12 metre highbeacon towers above the camp as a symbol of the danger for whales.Scattered around the rocks are large wooden whale flukes symbolisinggravestones in the "whale burial ground".

The Embassy itself consists of a large green dome, inside of whichwe have information on the plight of whales and our own alternative"whale museum". The dome is flanked by two huge inflatable whales,which have drawn a lot of bemused stares from local joggers andrestaurant-owners across the street.

For their part, officials say that Korea has not yet decided whether or not it will vote to resume whaling at this years' IWC.

"Why would the South Korean government invest in a brand new whale anddolphin meat processing factory unless it's already decided to rebuildits whaling industry? Let them deny it if it's not true," said JimWickens, our oceans campaigner, from the protest camp.

The hunting of whales is banned internationally but the South Koreangovernment currently sanctions a national trade in the meat of whalesand dolphins that are caught accidentally in nets. However, governmentstatistics show around a hundred times more whales are "accidentally"caught in Korea than in countries that do not have a domestic whalemeat market. Scientists believe that even the most populous whalespecies in Korean waters, minke whales, are in serious decline becauseof this trade.

It's not just foreigners to Korea who feel that it's time for whalingto be put in the past for good. Ye-Yong Choi, from KFEM, said:

"Whales in Korea's oceans, like whales everywhere, need urgentprotection. History shows us that killing them in the name of scienceor commerce will lead to their demise. Instead of repeating themistakes of the past, let's protect our ocean life and make our seas awhale sanctuary, instead of a whale cemetery."

More InfoRead the weblog from the Rainbow Warrior, currently in Korea, with updates from the "Whale Embassy". Check out the tour website at

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