The Korea Herald


Will Daegu get its own panda? Construction of park starts with hopes of hosting the rare animal

By Yoon Min-sik

Published : May 9, 2024 - 17:50

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This photo provided by Everland shows giant panda Fu Bao, the first of her kind to be born in South Korea. (Everland) This photo provided by Everland shows giant panda Fu Bao, the first of her kind to be born in South Korea. (Everland)

Daegu on Wednesday commenced the construction of the Daegu Grand Park in its Suseong-gu district, slated for completion by 2027. The park is to house a range of facilities including a zoo, theme parks and venues for leisure activities and sports.

The joint project by the city government and the Daegu Urban Development Corporation centers particularly on the plans for the new zoo, expected to replace the outdated facility currently located inside the Dalseong Park in Jung-gu.

Daegu Mayor Hong Joon-pyo has expressed hopes that the new zoo will house a giant panda on loan from China, with nationwide interest in the endangered species buoyed by the sky-high popularity of the Bao family at the Everland theme park in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province. Thousands of panda fans had gathered at the park in April to bid farewell to Fu Bao, the first giant panda to be born in South Korea.

"I've told (Chinese officials) of our intent to loan the giant panda during my recent visit to Chengdu, China, and they told me that pandas could be brought to Daegu if the Chinese government permits it," Hong said Wednesday at the park's groundbreaking ceremony.

The mayor recently visited the Chinese city, to which the giant pandas are native. It is also the location of the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, the current home of South Korea's favorite giant panda Fu Bao.

Hong added that he hopes the new zoo will be completed before July 2026, instead of by 2027 as initially planned. This is to ensure that the zoo will be completed before the end of his four-year term, which kicked off in July of 2022.

Hong's goal to bring the giant panda does not involve a specific plan as of yet, as consent from China is crucial.

An international agreement in 1983 granted China ownership of nearly all living pandas, including pandas like Fu Bao who were born outside the country. The only exceptions are the ones the country gave away before 1984 and any offspring of those pandas.

Officials at the DUDC stressed that the new zoo in Daegu will place particular importance on the well-being of the animals, acquiring sufficient space and facilities so that they can live in an environment that is close to their natural habitat.

It is unclear as of now if Daegu would even be able to bring a giant panda to the city, but Hong has expressed hopes that the bear would be a flagship attraction at the new zoo.

Fu Baor was part of an attraction open to the general public from Jan. 4, 2021, to March 3 of this year. During this period, Everland said an estimated 5.4 million visitors came to see her. In 2023 alone, when Fu Bao's popularity reached its peak, the Panda World at Everland received 2.15 million visitors.

Fu Bao's popularity was so extensive that her departure sparked multiple petitions to the Seoul Metropolitan Government calling for another loan. The city government turned down the request last month, saying it would be better for her well-being to stay in China.