Korea Moving in on Polar Regions

      September 01, 2008 07:02

      Korea's first icebreaker will explore the Arctic to open a sea route there in 2012, a senior government official said on Friday. With icebergs melting due to global warming, advanced countries are competing to develop new Arctic sea routes, and Korea has decided to join the competition.

      Under international law, no nation's sovereignty is recognized in the Arctic Ocean. But as the icecap melts due to climate change, sea routes open up for two to three months in summer. Russia, the U.S., Canada and Norway, which are close to the Arctic Ocean, are fiercely competing with each other with a view to securing huge amounts of oil and natural gas deposits in this region.

      The Korean government will join the competition to open sea routes and draw up maritime maps. As it is not adjacent to the Arctic, it cannot claim territorial seas. But if it accumulates research in the Arctic Ocean, it will be better placed to join other countries in an international agreement on the opening and development of the Arctic sea routes.

      Korea will also conduct more active research and development in the Antarctic. Seoul plans to build a research base for 45 scientists in the Antarctic by 2011, in addition to King Sejong Station located on King George Island on the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula.

      Korea will spend W7 billion (US$1=W1,089) this year to design the project, test the ground and conduct an environmental feasibility study. To stress Korea’s determination, President Lee Myung-bak is considering visiting King Sejong Station and the Arctic Research Station Dasan in the Svalbard Archipelago, Norway when he embarks on an overseas tour next year.

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