Amongst the nations that are showing a growing interest in Antarctica are many Asian countries such as China, India, Japan and South Korea. Several new stations have been constructed and the national research efforts are increased step by step.

Now, South Korea is expanding its presence in Antarctica. "At least the last six to seven years, the Korean Government has spent around US$300 million for Antarctic research," says Dr Yeadong Kim, director of the new Antarctic station Jang Bogo Station at Terra Nova Bay in the Ross Sea Region. This amount does not include the development of research centres in South Korea. One building that was opened in 2013 shows the Korean government’s commitment to polar science, it contains six floors of scientific laboratories. South Korea also commissioned the billion- dollar ice breaker RV Araon.

Ice breaker RV Araon is well-appointed with state-of-the-art research equipment for conducting geophysical, biological and oceanographic research. © KOPRI
Ice breaker RV Araon is well-appointed with state-of-the-art research equipment for conducting geophysical, biological and oceanographic research. © KOPRI

Since the beginning of November 2014 the Korea Polar Research Institute (KOPRI) has also a cooperation office at the International Antarctic Centre in Christchurch, New Zealand, where the New Zealand, United States and Italian Antarctic programmes are already based. “From today, all four international Antarctic programmes working in the Ross Sea region are co-located at one Antarctic hub in Christchurch. This means we can better support our operational activities through the joint movement of personnel and sharing of resources in the region," says Antarctica New Zealand Chief Executive Peter Beggs. "We are very proud of Christchurch’s position as a gateway city to Antarctica, and the combined infrastructure of Christchurch’s international airport, dry dock, sea port and engineering facilities, which provide effective support for our national Antarctic programmes operating in the Ross Sea region of Antarctica."

The opening ceremony of the new office included the formal signing of a cooperation agreement between the Korean and New Zealand national Antarctic programmes. This adds greater value to the government agreements signed between Korea and New Zealand in 2012 which facilitated the transit of personnel and equipment of the Korean Antarctic Programme through New Zealand for the construction of Korea's Jang Bogo Station during 2013. Both agreements promote ongoing cooperation between the two countries on Antarctic policy issues, scientific research and logistical activities. "Korea and the people of Christchurch, New Zealand's Antarctic gateway city, share a long history of people-to-people business and scientific exchange” says Mr Biggs.

Korea’s new Antarctic research base Jang Bogo. It will be able to accommodate as many as 60 people at once in its 16 buildings spread across a 4.5-square-kilometer area. The station is considered to be a ‘clean’ base, as it will be built with environmentally-friendly construction materials and is equipped with solar and wind power. © KOPRI
Korea’s new Antarctic research base Jang Bogo. It will be able to accommodate as many as 60 people at once in its 16 buildings spread across a 4.5-square-kilometer area. The station is considered to be a ‘clean’ base, as it will be built with environmentally-friendly construction materials and is equipped with solar and wind power. © KOPRI

The office opening was a significant event. It was attended by the President of KOPRI, several Korean government officials, Member of New Zealand Parliament Melissa Lee and Christchurch Mayor Hon Lianne Dalziel. Dr Gary Wilson, director of the New Zealand Antarctic Research Institute (NZARI) says, "NZARI is looking forward to further enhancing New Zealand's collaborative research efforts in Antarctica with KOPRI over the coming seasons. We already have a solid foundation which includes joint plans for research this season, and today's cooperation agreement between Antarctica New Zealand and KOPRI expands this opportunity." Their collaborative research will help to develop a global understanding of Antarctica's impacts and vulnerability in a changing global climate.

Source: Antarctica New Zealand, http://antarcticanz.govt.nz