Bear Farming 101

Credit: Belynda Azhaar


-Kelly Frances

Korea is one of 3 countries to allow bear bile farming (China, Vietnam, Russia, Korea), though it is known that Laos, Bangladesh, and Mongolia are involved in the trade.

-fewer than 50 reside in Jirisan park as of 2018

65+ herbal alternative exist

-Bear bile can be dangerous for humans

-This bear is classified by the IUCN as a Threatened and vulnerable species

-NGO TRAFFIC reports a high percentage of illegal Chinese and Russian product (though Russian products are slipping through a legal loophole due to their CITIES agreement and classifications)

 VIETNAM OUTLAWED SALES, but bears are legally kept on farms. This has created a lucrative BLACK MARKET SITUATION. Korea is their number one customer. In January 2012, ENV reported that business is booming as usual, and Koreans are still frequenting illegal operations, possibly unknowingly.

-Vietnam NGO “Education For Nature” (ENV) and Bear Necessity Korea  assisted in a direct appeal to Lee Man Ee (Mister of the Environment), from Vietnamese National Assembly member (published in JoongAng Daily, 2009)


1. The Korean government must end bear bile farming and offer reasonable alternatives for bear farmers.

2. The Korean government must establish a properly funded and sustainable bear sanctuary and all farmed bears must be released, monitored and properly protected and cared for now and in the future to the fullest extent.

3. The Korean government must ban all sales of bear products in Korea and confiscate all existing bear products.

4. The Korean government must foster education about Moonbears in public school curricula and other government funded outlets.

5. International monitoring organizations should be invited to participate in monitoring of compliance with animal welfare regulations.

6. Dialogue and support should commence between those countries with whom black market situations exist in a joint effort to end underground tour operations.

7. Illegal tour operators should receive harsh penalties and Korean Customs and Immigrations should advocate the protection of its citizens through educational campaigns.

 THE LATEST news in a nutshell:

For some time, a tabled bill remained under debate with 3 presumed options, each varying in severity. The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) and Green Korea United (GKU) announced a budget approval of USD 175,000 toward RnD that would specify the best way to approach an end to bear bile farming.  This commitment is separate from the bill tabled in 2010 titled: Bear Farm management, special law. In other words, the government displayed an intent to end bear bile farming regardless of whether the bill is passed or not. In 2012, a resolution was passed at the JEJU IUCN convention that all but china were signatory too, declaring a dedicated effort to phase out the bear bile trade permanently.


In 2010 we witnessed the first time the Korean government  publicly committed regarding the end of the bear bile trade. Again this intentionality remains separate from the tabled bill. The bill served as a “pressure application” more than a “solution” in the view of many experts. In the past, the end of the trade appeared publicly as an “option”, rather than an “inevitability”. The victory in 2012 left the public with the ipression of a resolved issue. however, little has changed today as farmers fight for compensation due to a trade the government marketed to them, and bears are in demand in many countries, legally or otherwise.


In 2010 WSPA voiced anticipation that a ban on breeding could occur shortly, which would be a first step.

 175,000USD: The sum of the Ministry of the Environment budget allotted for this issue circa 2011. , GKU and WSPA worked to influence the Ministry of environment via a Steering committee, the goal being a swift resolution.

3 “plans”, many views…

A Establishment of a sanctuary

B human euthanasia of genetically “pure” species, preservation of some individuals

-A swift and cruelty free end to the trade via humane euthanasia

The main factor leading to phase plan dispute? Money.

The budget PLAN as passed by the NATIONAL ASSEMBLY includes the following:  

Purpose of Investigation

– To collect individual data and identify the current status of their pedigrees by physical examination and genetic analysis

– To prepare measures to end the practice of bear farming through investigation of the current status of bear farming environment and management

  Contents of Investigation

– Investigation of the current status of bear farming environment and management

– Identify the problems of farming environment and management on each bear farm

– Find measures by each size and type to improve the current conditions based on the results of the investigation

– Investigation of health conditions and pedigrees by physical examination and genetic analysis

– Collect data of individual health conditions

– Identify the pedigrees(origins) and the level of cross-breeding of bears

– Collect data of individual pedigrees of bears on each farm by genetic analysis

 CRITICAL QUESTION: How does BREED affect BEAR TREATMENT? We understand that “pure asiatic black bears” may be sent to a rehabilitation center for breeding purposes-to sustain the wild population. This raises ethical questions among those who are intent upon salvaging all bears, regardless of pedigree. Jirisan Restoration Center maintains a pure population of the threatened and vulnerable species known as the Asiatic black bear.

 What’s the NEXT STEP for the National Assembly?

We don’t know yet, but positive pressure can encourage them to act SWIFTLY***


  1. WSPA-GKU RnD (LIKELY reporting to the Ministry to the Environment)
  2. The possibility of humane euthanasia of sick bears
  3. A deadline for farmers to slaughter livestock
  4. The construction of a small facility that may hold 5-25 individuals
  5. The X factor (the solution that we have all been struggling to create to save our bears)

 SCENARIOS  in basic form

 1-“PERFECT WORLD” OPTION – Government buys bears over time and provides care via sanctuary or funded facility


 Government buys all bears aged under (*) and ends bear farming within a given time – ban on breeding, increased regulations, and a reasonably swift end to the trade via humane euthanasia and sales—in short, a deadline for slaughter is implented. This could be stretched over a period of time, and bears may be selected for further breeding.

OTHER FACTORS in regard to a “phase out” scenario: Ban on breeding and farmer compensation:

-Compensation for not breeding may be given to farmers

-Changes in law pertaining to bear part sales (Ex: non medicinal use)


We must encourage a swift, INEVITABLE end to bear bile farming.

-EDUCATE (translate, create, connect, inpsire)

-Empower educators to integrate bears into the classroom and provide resources

-Inspire Koreans to reclaim their “mother”

-Protect the wild population

-Fundraise: we have NOT given up on sanctuary!


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