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Seoul says Fu Bao loan 'not going to happen'

By Yoon Min-sik

Published : April 17, 2024 - 11:19

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Fu Bao (Everland) Fu Bao (Everland)

The Seoul Metropolitan Government recently turned down a citizen petition to fund a loan from China of Fu Bao, the beloved giant panda who is the first of its kind to be born in South Korea.

The petition was posted on April 8, urging the city to re-loan Fu Bao so that she may be housed at the Seoul Grand Park, in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi Province. The park is funded and operated by Seoul.

However, the city said it would be better for Fu Bao to stay in China, where she was sent earlier this month.

"The Seoul Grand Park fully understands that many citizens are heartbroken by Fu Bao's departure to China, as she was loved by so many in the country. But considering it from Fu Bao's perspective, we hope that she will adapt well to her environment in China and lead a happy life," the city said in an official reply to the petition.

With the city's reply, the debate surrounding the giant panda's potential loan appears to have come to a close. The April 8 petition sparked other similar petitions supporting Fu Bao's return to South Korea, but it also prompted petitions opposing a loan, saying it was a waste of taxpayers' money.

This screengrab of the Sangsangdaero Seoul website, an online platform for citizens to make suggestions to the Seoul Metropolitan Government, shows petitions urging for giant panda Fu Bao's return to South Korea, as well as petitions posted by those against it. (Sangsangdaero Seoul) This screengrab of the Sangsangdaero Seoul website, an online platform for citizens to make suggestions to the Seoul Metropolitan Government, shows petitions urging for giant panda Fu Bao's return to South Korea, as well as petitions posted by those against it. (Sangsangdaero Seoul)

There have also been those who said bringing back Fu Bao would be detrimental to her well-being, as another relocation would cause her stress, and staying in South Korea would make it impossible for her to mate with another panda.

Kang Cheol-won, who had been one of her primary caretakers in South Korea, told the local media that it would be best for Fu Bao to stay in China where she could meet a mate.

Fu Bao, who will be 4 years old on July 20 this year, had previously been housed at the Everland theme park in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province. She was born there to pandas Ai Bao and Le Bao, who were sent to South Korea in 2016 by China on a 15-year loan contract.

Despite being one of Everland's most popular attractions, Fu Bao had been slated to be sent to China before she reached maturity at around the age of 4. An international agreement in 1984 granted China ownership of nearly all living pandas, even those born outside the country, except the ones the country gave away before 1984 and any offspring of those pandas.

Fu Bao (Everland) Fu Bao (Everland)

Several thousand South Korean fans had gathered at the Everland for Fu Bao's send-off, with some expressing concerns about the panda's health in her new environment. Caretaker Kang addressed these concerns last week, assuring fans that Fu Bao is in good health.

Fu Bao is currently staying at the China Conservation and Research Center, which recently released videos of her with the news that she is healthy.