Explained: South Korean President plans to ban dog meat, here’s why

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South Korean President Moon Jae-in has raised the possibility of banning the consumption of dog meat in the country. It comes at a time when there has been a growing awareness of animal rights in South Korea and an ongoing debate over the controversial practice of slaughtering dogs for food.

In August this year, the director general of the legal counsel of the South Korean Ministry of Justice, Choung Jae-min, told Reuters in an interview that the country was planning to change its civil code to grant animals a status. legal where people who abuse and abandon animals face harsher penalties.

This weekend, in the official football club podcast, former Manchester United player Park Ji-sung asked supporters and fans of the club to stop singing a fan song that contains a reference to Koreans eating dog meat, explaining that the negative stereotype makes South Korean players uncomfortable. . Park added that he didn’t believe the fans wanted to offend the vocals. During the podcast, Park said some United fans sang the song again for Wolves new signing Hwang Hee-chan during their game at Molineux in August.

“So I’m really sorry for him to hear this. I know the United fans didn’t want to offend him, but I have to educate the fans to stop that word, which is a racial insult to the Korean people these days. I have to ask the fans to stop singing that word because it doesn’t comfort someone anymore, it’s going to be more uncomfortable when they hear this song, ”Park said on the podcast.

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Sociocultural context

The practice of eating dog meat has been on the decline in South Korea, China and other countries since the 2000s, said Dr. Joo Young-ha, professor of folk studies at the Academy of Studies. Koreans, one of the leading scholars on Korean culinary history, in an interview with indianexpress.com. In the case of South Korea, this process began in 1988, when the country hosted the Olympics and was severely criticized by foreigners for this culinary practice and began to be influenced more by Western cultural traditions.

A Reuters report estimated that up to a million dogs are still slaughtered for food in South Korea each year, but demand for dog meat has declined dramatically over the years. Historical documentation indicates that dog meat was consumed during the Goryeo dynasty and the Joseon dynasty, when the consumption of beef was regulated and limited. “Unlike beef and pork, dog meat was an easy ingredient, available in every household,” Dr. Joo said.

In the 20th century, “cows, pigs and chickens were specifically bred to provide meat, but Koreans, especially men, did not stop eating dog meat. Dog meat is also linked to masculinity, to specific power groups, such as prosecutors, officers and journalists, ”he explained.

When criticism of dog meat consumption first rose during the 1988 Seoul Olympics, Koreans opposed the criticism, saying it was part of traditional Korean food and that the issue has become more nationalistic, said Dr. Joo. “At that time, many male intellectuals ate dog meat more than once in the summer. Therefore, government officials did not actively ban the sale of dog meat (citing culinary traditions). This problem persisted during the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

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Domestic feelings

The debate now in this context, said Dr Joo, is not about how foreigners view Korean culinary practices, but what Koreans themselves think. Over 60% of Koreans now recognize companion dogs as part of their family, not food. “It’s more of a conflict within Korean society.”

During the recent meeting with South Korean Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum, President Moon questioned whether it was time for the country to “carefully consider” a ban on this meat. Discussions at the government level on this issue are really the result of domestic feelings, more than concerns about the country’s image internationally. “This is why some argue that the president should consider banning the sale of dog meat,” Dr Joo said.

President Moon is a known dog lover and this is the first time during his tenure that he has raised the possibility of a complete ban on this type of meat. According to a Reuters report, although there is a law prohibiting the cruel slaughter of dogs and cats, the consumption of the meat itself is not prohibited in South Korea.

“Young Koreans have no reason to eat dog meat. Today, beef, pork, chicken, lamb, etc. are easily purchased in South Korea, ”said Dr. Joo. “Even in Korea, it has changed a lot. It is true that, historically, people ate dog meat. But these days, especially the younger generation, they hate it. It was there before, but nowadays you really can’t find it. Culture is changing, ”Park said in the podcast.

A Reuters report cited a recent poll commissioned by animal welfare group Aware, which found that “78% of respondents believed the production and sale of dog and cat meat should be banned and 49% supported a ban on consumption “.

However, Reuters said that “another survey by polling firm Realmeter found people were divided over whether the government should ban the consumption of dog meat, although 59% supported the restrictions regulations on the slaughter of dogs for human consumption “. Despite the decline in the number of customers, Reuters said the dog meat sellers insisted on the right to their occupation, saying their livelihoods were threatened.

According to a report by Humane Society International, in South Korea, Nureongi, a yellow spitz, is often used as a cattle dog. At some dog farms, Tosa, a mastiff bred for meat, was also rescued, along with Pungsan, a dog from the Korean Peninsula. “Previously this was mostly a traditional home bred species,” said Dr Joo, explaining the different breeds of dogs bred for consumption. “However, since the 2000s, traditional species have declined and pet dogs imported from abroad have become ingredients for dog meat dishes.”

Election promises

In recent years, advocacy groups have increased pressure on the South Korean government to shut down markets, farms and restaurants linked to dog meat. South Korea is due to hold presidential elections in March next year and in recent weeks several presidential candidates have pledged to ban dog meat in the country.

Reuters reported that Lee Jae-myung, governor of South Korea’s most populous Gyeonggi province and a top presidential candidate in President Moon’s party, had pledged to push for a ban by social consensus. “But Yoon Seok-youl, an opposition leader, said it was a matter of personal choice,” the report added.

There have been relatively few changes in culinary practices in the DPRK, and they resemble the eating habits of South Koreans before the 1970s, he said. “Dog meat dishes are also a very important national food in North Korea. Since the 2010s, the number of people raising dogs as pets has also increased in the Sino-Korean community in Yanbian Korea Autonomous Prefecture in China. As a result, the restaurant that publicly sold dog meat dishes (now operates behind closed doors), ”explained Dr Joo.


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