Who is Fu Bao, and why are so many South Koreans bidding farewell to her?

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Beijing has long used 'panda diplomacy' as a form of soft power, and Fu Bao's parents -- Ai Bao and Le Bao -- were gifted to South Korea in 2016 by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Beijing has long used "panda diplomacy" as a form of soft power, and Fu Bao's parents -- Ai Bao and Le Bao -- were gifted to South Korea in 2016 by Chinese President Xi Jinping.Panda fans react as a vibration-free special vehicle carrying giant panda Fu Bao passes through fans during a farewell ceremony at Everland amusement park in Yongin on April 3, 2024. / Photo: AFP

Fu Bao -- which means"treasure that gives happiness" -- was born in 2020 and is a celebrity in South Korea, with her videos on the zoo's YouTube channel attracting around 500 million views. Thanks to her popularity, the number of visitors to Everland's Panda World doubled last year to 2.15 million, compared to 1.07 million in 2020 before Fu Bao's arrival, the theme park said.Fu Bao welcomed her younger twin sisters last year, named Rui Bao and Hui Bao, whose births also triggered an outpouring of excitement online in South Korea.

Under an agreement between Seoul and Beijing, Fu Bao's parents can stay in South Korea until 2031, but her twin sisters, like Fu Bao herself, must return to China before they turn four years old."Fu Bao left Everland at around 11 am," the zoo said in a statement, adding the panda will leave for China via the Incheon International Airport on a chartered plane.She was moved on a special non-vibrating vehicle typically used for semiconductor transportation, the facility added.

 

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