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Jangsaengpo Memory of Whale

2012/04/15 | 378 views |  | Permalink | Source

A gray whale is drawn on a fishery inspection boat at Jangsaengpo port in southeastern city of Ulsan. Gray whales are on the wanted list - 5 million won reward for a photo of a gray whale and 10 million won for incidental catch or report of stranded whales. / Korea Times photos by Shim Hyun-chul

By Shim Hyun-chul

"You don't see any whales because we don't go whale hunting anymore. It's been more than 30 years since a harpooner has caught a whale. There used to be some star harpooners here", said Kim Young-hak, 63, recalling the heyday on board the Myeongsin-ho. He was a first seaman on the whaler when whale hunting was in season in Jangsaengpo, off the coast of Ulsan in southeastern Korea.

Whale hunting was banned in 1986, so where did all whales of Jangsaengpo go?

To revive the memory of whales in Jangsaengpo in an ecological way, Ulsan City is hosting the "2012 Ulsan Whale Festival", the only whale-themed festival in Korea, from April 26 to 29.

The history of whale hunting in Jangsaengpo dates back to prehistoric ages and some 60 whales are engraved on National Treasure No. 285, the Bangudae Petroglyphs.

Modern whale hunting in Korea started in 1891, when Russian Emperor Nicholas II founded a fishery company covering the Pacific Ocean. The main whale hunting ground was around Mukho, Gangwon Province on the east coast.

When whale hunting peaked in the 1970s, Jangsaengpo was a big fishing village with more than 20 whaling ships and a population of 10,000.

However, indiscriminate poaching resulted in the extinction of some species and the International Whaling Commission officially banned commercial whale hunting in 1986. Korea's only whaling village has been on the decline since, but the memories of whale hunting still linger there.

For more information about the festival, visit or call (052) 276-8474.

The sun sets behind Jangsaengpo port in Ulsan, where whaling ships once crowded for space many years ago.

Gray whales are on the list of endangered species and the sea near Ulsan is designated as Natural Monument No. 126 to protect them. Instead, murals of whales on nearby factories revive the presence of the lost mammals.

A replica of a gray whale is on display at Jangsaengpo Whale Musuem in Ulsan. A model of a whaler stands behind it.

Kim Young-hak, 63, a former whale hunter, shows equipment used to dismember whales at his house.

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