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Agreement: South Korean icebreaker can explore Canada's Arctic

Alaska Dispatch
Aaron Jansen illustration

According to South Korea's Yonhap News Agency, Canada has reached an understanding that will allow South Korea's first icebreaker to conduct fossil fuels exploration and scientific research in the Arctic Ocean.

Canada and the South Korean Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs have agreed to study portions of the Beaufort Sea within Canada's exclusive economic zone.

The report does not mention exactly where the exploration will occur, but a significant slice of the Beaufort is disputed territory. The U.S. contends the Yukon border with Alaska extends along a line equidistant to both countries' northern shores, and Canada contends the land border extends north into the sea in a straight line.

No matter, South Korea's icebreaker, the Araon, will begin exploring Canada's side of the line for undersea gas hydrate reserves, and investigate offshore permafrost and methane seeps.

"Exact details have to be worked out with Canada, but the Araon should begin exploration in the summer of 2013," an official told Yonhap.

South Korea had been working toward a joint Arctic research project with Canada since 2008, and the official said it opens the door to South Korean companies if Canada should ever decide to open Arctic offshore areas to oil or gas production.

Read more about the research agreement, here, and for a wider view of Korea's increased efforts to become involved in the Arctic, read this recent Korea Herald report.