Friday, April 22, 2011

Russia giving Korea three rare Siberian tigers

It’s a tiger of a deal. Russia plans to give three Siberian tigers to Korea to reaffirm amicable bilateral ties between Korea and Russia.

“The Korean and Russian governments have recently decided to bring in tigers to Korea within the first half of the year,” said a Korean diplomatic source. “This is meaningful as it symbolizes the friendly relations between the two countries.”

The three Siberian tigers, otherwise known as Amur tigers, were each said to be a little over a year old.

Zoologists have said that Siberian tigers have not been found in Korea since 1922 when the last Siberian tiger was killed in North Gyeongsang. The tigers, which are an endangered species under protection in the eastern region of Siberia, are considered mystical creatures in Korean culture.

The source said that diplomatic officials hatched a plan to have the tigers accompany Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on a visit to Korea, but was scrapped because Putin does not have plans to visit Korea anytime soon.

Korea’s Ministry of Environment is in negotiations on the transport plans for the tigers, and a group from the Korean government visited Russia last December, said the source.

Relations between South Korea and Russia soured last year when Russia did not take a more active role in blaming North Korea for the sinking of the Cheonan in March.

However, Seoul is now extending efforts to have warmer ties with Russia as North Korea has sided with China since inter-Korean relations turned cold.

According to government sources, the Russian government also hopes to have better ties with South Korea as its influence over the Korean Peninsula has weakened.

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