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Korea becomes one of 10 Antarctic research powerhouses

Posted February. 12, 2014 07:23,   


Antarctica is the haven for penguins. "The Tears of the Antarctic," a documentary that illustrates the ecosystem in the Antarctic continent for the first time in Korea, featured the emperor penguin, which brought keen attention from viewers. The female penguin spawns an egg amid freezing winter weather, and heads out to the sea in search of feed. From then, the dad penguin undergoes a voyage of pain and suffering to hatch the egg amid bone-carving snowstorms and storms. The dad penguin vomits food in his stomach to feed the baby penguin in displaying strong paternity.

The entire territorial size of the Antarctic continent amounts to 1,360km², about 62 times the size of the Korean Peninsula. The continent, which is covered with thick ice 2,100 meters deep on average contains 90 percent of freshwater volume on the planet Earth. The Antarctic has the most severe weather on earth, but is called the ‘treasure house’ for the survival of humanity. The continent is rich in oil, gas and natural resources buried underground and fisheries resources in the sea. With extreme weather conditions coupled with crystal-clear nature, the Antarctic is an ideal laboratory for studying basic science. It is an archive that perfectly preserves the history of the earth’s generation under permafrost, and is considered the best place to study climate change because global warming is progressing faster there than anywhere else.

The Jang Bogo Research Station, Korea’s first research station in the mainland Antarctic continent, will be completed on Wednesday. Korea has become the 10th country in the world that runs two or more permanent stations in Antarctica for the first time in 26 years since the opening of the King Sejong Station on King George Island in 1988. The Sejong Station will focus on study of oceanic environment and coastal ecosystem, while the Jang Bogo station that costs 104.7 billion won (98 million dollars) to construct will concentrate on study based on the continent, including iceberg, meteors, ozone layer, and engineering in the coldest places.

According to the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty that took effect in 1998, development of natural resources development, other than scientific study, has been put on hold through 2048. However, 29 countries that operate stations in the Antarctic continent and surrounding islands engage in fierce competition. The U.S. is operating stations with more than 1,000 people who are constantly stationed. China, Japan, the U.K., and Australia are also racing in polar research. Amid this situation, Korea cannot afford to be negligent about investment in the South Pole region with the aim of expanding the nation’s “scientific territory” and developing untapped resources for the future.

Editorial writer Koh Mi-seok (mskoh119@donga.com)