Pandas From China Arrive in South Korea

David Lee, March 3, 2016, 12:02 p.m.


A pair of Chinese panda bears arrived in South Korea Thursday as part of a research project on the endangered species conducted by the two countries. The pandas named Ai Bao and Le Bao arrived at the country's main gateway, Incheon International Airport, on a specially-chartered flight from the Chinese southwestern province of Sichuan.

Dubbed "panda diplomacy," China has a tradition of sending pandas to foreign countries as a gesture of friendship. It is often a time-honored goodwill gesture by Beijing for fostering bilateral relations. Seoul previously rented a pair of pandas in 1994, but they were returned back to their home country in 1998 following the financial crisis previous year. A total of 14 countries currently own the rare animals.

President Park Geun-hye and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed during his state visit here in 2014 to lease the giant bears for the joint-research purpose. Since then, the two nations have designated Samsung Everland, which operates the country's largest amusement park south of Seoul, as the host for the bears.

The research will delve into conservation efforts and breeding programs, according to the amusement park that also has a large zoo. The animals are one of the most endangered species on the planet with only about 2,000 giant pandas alive today. The two will be unveiled to the public starting in April, the amusement park said, adding that the bears will spend one month getting acclimated to their new environment under the care of veterinarians from both countries.

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