Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Pets in South Korea
After the Korean War "paused" in 1953. South Korea's economy started to rapidly expand between the 1960's and 1980's. New wealth and prevalence of the western entertainment meant that Koreans wanted everything the West had. This includes pets.
Pets are relativity new in Korea but are fairly common with about 1 in 4 owning a pet. Despite Koreans owning pets it is a new development with many owners treating their pets very differently than Americans would. The majority of Koreans live in apartments and so the majority of dogs are small, weighing under ten pounds. These dogs are rarely let outside as the idea of a mandatory daily walk is not a "dog law 101" like in the West. Cats, which would seem to me to be much better suited for apartment life are uncommon. None of my students own a cat and the ones I see are clearly strays. The Hilton idea of a dog as a accessory has certainly caught on however with many "Animal Hospitals" with windows full of dog clothes and dye jobs like this are commonplace.
The greatest problem I have with Korean pets are the stores themselves. Pets stores are everywhere with windows full of puppies. Only puppies are sold in Korea.Puppy Mills anyone? Also there is only one Settler in Daegu. Its run by a British ex-pat couple. My friend volunteered there and said that dogs are rarely adopted and that many of them were purchased from owners who sold them for meat.
This brings us to the picture at the top of my post and to the answer to where are the non-snarf dogs in Korea. Bosintang. Bosintang is a famous Korean stew made with dog meat. It is traditionally served on the three hottest days of the year. Dog meat is difficult to find in Korea and there is no chance of a visitor eating accidentally. I have heard from friends that the meat is best eaten outside of the traditional soup and is tender and sweet. I am not planning on eating dog however, I do not condemn it as long as the dogs are raised in a humane fashion. This many people argue is the real problem.
The number of Koreans who eat dog is much smaller than you hear about overseas. When I asked my students (my own poll group of around 120 kids) nearly all of them had never eaten Bosintang and many of them were disgusted by the idea. The number of Koreans who have eaten dog meat is much higher among my age group but most confessed they only ate it to try it. The original reasons for eating dog (cheaper and available to all classes) is no longer true and the dish is quickly becoming a rarity.