The Cruel Fate of Korean Moon Bears

by Gina Moon, 17/06/2010

Moon bears (also known as Asiatic black bear), a medium sized, sharp-clawed, black-coloured bear with a distinctive white or cream "V" or "moon shaped" marking on its chest, are native to Korea. They are omnivores, that is, they consume a great variety of foods including fruit, berries, grasses, seeds, nuts, invertebrates, honey and meat (fish, birds, rodents and other small mammals) although meat makes up only a very small part of their diet.

The Best Replica Watches bear holds a special position in Korean mythology. A tiger and a bear living in a cave together prayed to become human. Upon hearing their prayers, Hwan-ung (the son of Hwan-in, who was the God of All and the ruler of Heaven) called them to him and gave them 20 cloves of garlic and a bunch of mugwort. He said they should only eat this sacred food and remain out of the sunlight for 100 days. The tiger gave up and left the cave. However, the bear remained true and after 21 days was transformed into a beautiful woman. The bear-woman was very grateful and made offerings to Hwan-ung. However, lacking a companion she soon became sad and prayed for a child. Hwan-ung took her for his wife and soon she gave birth to a handsome son. They named him Tan-gun, meaning "Altar Prince" or sandalwood. He became Korea's first king.

Currently, there are only 19 moon bears living in the ‘wild’ in Korea -  on a reserve at Jiri Mountain – in constant danger from poachers. In contrast to the low number in the wild, it is estimated that there are over 1,600 moon bears on about 100 farms to meet the needs of those who believe, for example, that a bear’s gall bladder cures human liver problems - bear parts can be found in many oriental medicine shops in Korea. It is reported that a bear gall bladder sells for around US$20,000 which makes bear farming a very lucrative trade for those involved in it – farmers, middle-men, etc.

Bear farming in Korea grew during the 1980's in response to the dwindling supply of bear parts obtained from bears hunted in the wild. Since then, the Korean government has struggled to balance the interests of Korean bear farmers with international pressures for environmental conservation.The government fostered the industry in the early 1980's as a way of supporting the Korean agricultural industry. In 1981, just one year before its declaration of moon bears as a protected species, the government imported almost 500 bears  for breeding and export.

In 1985, along with other countries,  Korea banned the import of bears - only four years after the same Government officials began importing them. However, bear farmers were allowed to slaughter bears for oriental medicine as compensation for the import ban and the decline of the legitimate live bear export market.

Surveys of the Korean population indicate that the vast majority of people do not support the  slaughter of bears for medicinal purposes.,  founded  in 2007, is working to get the Korean government to ban bear farming and the sale and consumption of bear products.

Additionally is seeking to raise funds from both the government and individuals to establish a number of sanctuaries for freed bears, similar to that operated by Animals Asia in China.
October 4th is World Animals Day and a number of events are already being planned for that day to raise awareness of the plight of animals in Korea. We would like to encourage as many individuals and organizations as possible to organise their own events for World Animals Day. Anyone interested in doing so can contact G Moon for any suggestions or so that your event can be advertised by the World Animals Day secretariat.

Gina Moon,  the founder of,  has recently been appointed by the World Animal Day Organization as the Ambassador for World Animals Day for Korea. She can be reached through

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