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South Korea backs down on plan to begin 'scientific whaling'


Shunichi Arita, manager of Japanese-style restaurant chain Taruichi, serves whale sashimi at his restaurant in Tokyo's red-light district Kabukicho.


Toru Yamanaka

South Korea has reportedly backed down on a plan to begin so-called scientific whaling.

Seoul sparked an international outcry last week by unveiling its plans at the International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting in Panama to begin killing minke whales.

More from GlobalPost: South Korea to begin 'scientific whaling,' following Japan

A loophole in a global moratorium on whaling permits killing of whales for research purposes, according to Agence France-Presse.

However, Australia's Foreign Affairs Minister, Bob Carr, told reporters that a South Korean official had told him scientific whaling now would not go ahead.

According to Australia's ABC News, Carr said he had held talks on whaling with his Korean counterpart Kim Sung-Hwan at the East Asia Summit in Cambodia, and:

"I was very heartened that he indicated to me that plans for scientific whaling, as it's called, would not proceed," he told ABC.

"I told him that was a decision that would be warmly welcomed.

"I said Korea's committed itself to green growth — it's capable of becoming a global green super-power — and its green credentials would not be compromised, as they would be if whaling had been pursued."

Japan has been using the loophole to hunt whales, with the meat then going on dinner plates, and its annual hunts in the Antarctic are the subject of often violent protest documented in the "Whale Wars" TV series. 

The Australian government is also one of the most vocal opponents of whaling.

When South Korea announced its plan to begin hunts, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard called for an immediate diplomatic protest, according to Australia's Fairfax media.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key followed suit, calling it a terrible step in the wrong direction.

However, minkes are already taken as "bycatch" in Korean fishing nets, while illegal harpoon hunts continue off the country's coast despite Seoul saying it has tried to stamp them out, Fairfax reported.

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