Did a South Korean mayor ask China for giant pandas as a ‘gift’?

A claim emerged in media posts that the mayor of the South Korean city of Daegu had asked China for giant pandas as a gift.
China for giant pandas:- A claim emerged in media posts that the mayor of the South Korean city of Daegu had asked China for giant pandas as a gift. [RFA]
China for giant pandas:- A claim emerged in media posts that the mayor of the South Korean city of Daegu had asked China for giant pandas as a gift. [RFA]

China for giant pandas:- A claim emerged in media posts that the mayor of the South Korean city of Daegu had asked China for giant pandas as a gift. 

But the claim is false. The mayor only requested that the pandas be leased. In 1982, China announced that it would no longer gift pandas to other countries due to the rare animals’ shrinking natural habitat and would only lease them.

The claim was shared on pro-Beijing media outlet Guancha on June 3, 2024.

“On May 31, Chinese Ambassador to South Korea Xing Haiming visited Daegu to meet with Mayor Hong Jun-pyo. Yonhap news agency reported that Hong expressed his hope that China would present a pair of giant pandas to the Daegu Great Park, which will be completed in 2027,” the report reads in part.

The claim was published by other media outlets, including Hong Kong’s Sing Tao Daily and Russia’s Sputnik News.

The news quickly became the hottest topic on China’s Weibo social media platform. Netizens criticized South Korea's requests as “shameless” and “begging”.

But the claim is false. 

Source of the claim

Guancha cited a report published by South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency. 

Keyword searches found that Yonhap did publish a story on May 31, containing the phrase “gift giant pandas” in its headline. 

However, as of June 3, Yonhap had updated the report and changed the phrase to “asked China to lease giant pandas”.

A Daegu city official told AFCL that they had only asked China to lease a pair of pandas, adding that the term “gifting” was a mistake by Yonhap, which had since been corrected.

In 1982, China announced that due to the rapid loss of suitable habitat for giant pandas, it would stop gifting pandas to other countries and would only lease them. RFA/SP

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