"I Came To See Fu Bao" — South Korean Zookeeper Reunites With 'Grandchild' Panda In China

He had raised her since birth at Everland's Panda World in Yongin, South Korea.

Cover image via withEverland & Samsung C&T

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Last week, South Korean zookeeper Kang Cheol-won got to visit his beloved 'granddaughter', Fu Bao the panda, for the first time in three months

In a press release last week, South Korean theme park Everland said Kang was reunited with the panda he had raised at the Shenshuping Panda Base in Wolong, China on 4 and 5 July.

The zookeeper got to tour the enclosure where Fu Bao currently lives and even call out to the panda.

Everland said Fu Bao recognised Kang's voice and responded by coming closer.

Image via withEverland
Image via withEverland

The heartwarming reunion follows Fu Bao's return from South Korea to China in April, as part of an agreement between the two countries

Fu Bao is the first offspring of Ai Bao and Le Bao, giant pandas gifted by Chinese President Xi Jinping to South Korea in March 2016 on a 15-year loan as a symbol of the two countries' friendship.

The female cub was the first giant panda ever to be born in South Korea in July 2020, and resided at Everland's Panda World for 1,354 days.

According to the agreement, while the adult pandas are to remain in South Korea until 2030, all panda cubs must be returned to China before they turn four years old.

Fu Bao celebrated her first birthday with Kang in Everland, Yongin, South Korea.

Image via Samsung C&T

Kang was one of the veteran zookeepers dedicated to taking care of Fu Bao, and was often affectionately called her 'grandfather'

Fu Bao gained celebrity status in South Korea, with approximately 5.5 million people — around one-tenth of the entire South Korean population — visiting the park to see her.

Videos of the duo's antics on Everland's YouTube channel had also collectively attracted over 500 million views.

The young panda had thousands of adoring fans gathering in the rain to bid her farewell in April this year before she left for China.

A screenshot of a video of Fu Bao holding onto Kang's arm, which has 22 million views on Everland's YouTube channel.

Image via Samsung C&T

Panda fans bid farewell to Fu Bao as she was transported in a special vibration-free vehicle to Incheon International Airport on 3 April.

Image via AFP/TRT World

Kang had accompanied the panda on her journey to Shenshuping Panda Base in Sichuan Province and was supposed to stay for an adjustment period

However, he had to return to South Korea earlier than scheduled due to his mother's passing.

Nonetheless, after two months of quarantine and adaptation in China, Fu Bao was finally introduced to the general public at an outdoor enclosure in June.

"I feel relieved after seeing Fu Bao's living environment firsthand, as the surroundings are excellent and the local caregivers have put in a lot of effort for Fu Bao," Kang said during his visit last week.

"I am proud to see her adapting well, and I believe Fu Bao is doing great. I want to visit Fu Bao again whenever I have the chance," he added.

Everland added that a video of Kang and Fu Bao's reunion will be released later on their YouTube channel.

Image via withEverland
Image via withEverland

Here's a video of six-month-old Fu Bao clinging to Kang's leg that has drawn over 16 million views on YouTube:

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