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A pair of ‘treasure pandas’ from China arrive in Korea

A pair of ‘treasure pandas’ from China arrive in Korea

Posted March. 04, 2016 07:04,   

Updated March. 04, 2016 07:13

A pair of giant pandas, a state gift to Korea from Chinese President Xi Jinping, have arrived in Seoul on Thursday.

Aibao ('lovely treasure' in Chinese), a two-year-old female, and Lebao ('pleasant treasure' in Chinese), a three-year-old male, arrived in Incheon International Airport on a specially-chartered Boeing 747 flight on Thursday afternoon. The pandas will go through an adjustment period in their new home at the Panda World, a habitat for pandas located within the Everland Theme Park in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province. Everland surveyed some 8,500 Internet users from Korea and China last year to select the name of the pandas.

This marks the first time in 22 years that Chinese pandas, the symbol of the friendly relations between Korea and China, have been brought in Korea. In 1994, the Chinese government sent a pair of pandas to Korea to celebrate the second anniversary of diplomatic ties. In the wake of the Asian foreign reserve crisis in 1998, however, the Korean government sent the pandas back to China, citing the high cost of keeping them.

In 2014, President Xi Jinping decided to send pandas as symbol of the two countries’ friendship during his visit to Korea, and Everland is going to take care of the pandas for the next 15 years. As a result, Korea has become the 14th country in the world to have Chinese giant pandas, following the U.S., Japan, and the U.K. among others. Worldwide, only 1864 wild pandas are living, which makes them an endangered species, and outside China, there are only 50 wild pandas in the world.

Over the next 15 years, Everland will grant one million dollars to China every year in the name of panda protection funds. The 13 countries that were given the state gift of pandas from China have also been raising the same funds.

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