Korea Begins taking measures to protect travelers, though much ‘the turtle in the race’.
For the past year, the animal welfare community has eagerly anticipated an educational campaign from immigration, targeting those traveling to Vietnam who may, ignorantly or otherwise, be involved in illegal tours to bear bile farms. As part of Green Korea United’s (GKU) 2009 agenda, meetings with the Korea Tourism Organisation were planned to introduce them to the issue of illegal trade/tourism in bear bile. This activity was suspended as it was later identified that the Korea Tourism organisation has no authority to control work related to public awarenss of items which are illegal to purchase abroad (e.g. on sightseeing brochures etc). Consequently, a meeting with the ministry of Culture, Sports & Tourism was planned to tackle the issue of illegal bear bile tourism and contraband entering the country by often ignorant tourists.
On having a meeting with the official in charge of the Dept. of International Tourism, the Ministry of Culture, Sports & Tourism, GKU learned the Ministry of Culture, Sports & Tourism has entrusted the related work to the Korea Association of Travel Agents (KATA) and financed their work.
In addition, GKU met the KATA official in charge of Outbound Tourism, and was promised that KATA would add the information on illegal trade of bear bile to their trainings and workshops for the travel agents on security, Swine flu, and terrorism. They will keep working on this in 2010. Korean customs has funded the total cost of printing bear tourism information leaflets and posters for distribution.
At present, bear gall is included as an illegal item on the return checklist for customs, but no preventive measures exist to inform those touring Vietnam that it is illegal to buy products containing Urseodeoxycholic acid (bear gall’s prized ingredient).