South Koreans have been consuming dog meat for hundreds of years. Will the recent outcry against its consumption lead to any significant changes?
To the western world, practices from Asia can seem a bit otherworldly at times, especially when you take their cuisine into consideration. Food such as snakes, insects, and various other grub that you would turn your nose away from are considered delicacies in numerous countries. Dog meat practically is something which the rest of the world is against. Most people would view the practice of slaughtering dogs, an animal we consider a loyal companion, inhumane but in countries such as South Korea and North Korea, there is a high demand for it.
The governments of these two aforementioned countries were entirely aware of how their countries’ dog meat trade reflected poorly on them on the international scene. With the Winter Olympics now underway and thousands of tourists pouring into the country, South Korea’s government had instructed its citizens to refrain from purchasing dog meat out in the public. They had also offered money to restaurants if they stopped serving dog meat during the games and asked for signs advertising them to either be covered or removed.
It had also ordered the closing of the Moran market in Seongnam in May 2017 – some 70-odd miles from the games are taking place and the country’s largest open-air dog market – where up to 80,000 dogs are killed every year and which acts as the source for one-third of the dog meat consumption in the country. However, according to a report by the Daily Mail, the market is still up and running, and attracting thousands of prospective customers.
According to the Associated Press, restaurants ‘nearly in the shadow of the Olympic Stadium’ are selling dog meals, with Humane Society International reporting that 2.5 million Korean dogs are killed for their meat every year.
The country has attempted to discourage dog meat consumption in recent years, but it is not an easy task. One in three Koreans have eaten dog meat at least once in their lives and one in twenty are regular consumers. The popularity of the meat can be traced to a soup named Bosintang or Gaejangguk (Dangogiguk in North Korea), which includes dog meat as its primary ingredient and has a long history in Korean culture. Made with vegetables such as green onion, perilla leaves, and dandelions, the soup is believed to increase the virility of those who consume it. It’s also available for rates as cheap as $7.50 a bowl.
One elderly woman selling dog meat told the Daily Mail: “It’s just like making any meat soup. I can’t tell you about how to slaughter the animal because it’s not really allowed, it’s tolerated. But once you have the meat you cook it with vegetables and spices in a rich broth and serve it piping hot. It’s very popular.”