Culinary Flap Dogs S. Korea
The traditional practice of eating canines has come under fire because of animal rights activism and the increasing
appeal of pooches as pets. January 07, 2002|BARBARA DEMICK | TIMES STAFF WRITER
SEOUL — Prancing on a chair in a fashionable cafe, an 11-month-old beagle wears a red patent-leather collar and a
sweater in festive Christmas colors. Nobody seems bothered when she puts her paws on the cafe table or tries to lap at her
owner's cappuccino. In fact, this cafe is designed especially for dog owners--the menu even includes dog food--and many
of the clients say they wouldn't consider going out on weekends to any establishment that didn't welcome their pets.
"My dog comes first," says Kim Ju Young, a 29-year-old marketing manager who, with her beagle, Blue, patronizes several
new cafes in Seoul that cater to dogs.
Across town there is another eating establishment where the clientele speaks highly of dog. Dog meat, that is, the specialty
of the house.
"Dog meat gives a man strength and vigor," declares 86-year-old Park In Bok, a retired businessman, polishing off a bowl
of spicy crimson soup made of stewed canine, red pepper and sesame leaves.
There are two kinds of dogs in South Korea, those that are coddled, coiffed and often treated with more indulgence than
children--and those that are raised as a culinary delicacy. Therein lies a contradiction inherent in Korean culture that has
become a veritable tempest in a soup pot.
The long-standing practice of eating dog has come under fire of late because of a well-publicized campaign by foreign
animal rights activists and because of the increasing popularity of dogs as pets.
The flap started in November when the organizers of the World Cup soccer games, to be co-hosted by South Korea and
Japan in May and June, publicly called on Koreans to "show the world that it is sensitive to vociferous worldwide public
opinion and that it rejects cruelty." Then the French actress Brigitte Bardot touched a raw nationalist nerve by accusing
Koreans of savagery in the methods they use to slaughter dogs for consumption.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a Norfolk, Va.-based organization, in November submitted a petition signed
by dozens of celebrities asking the South Korean government to crack down on what it calls the torture of cats and dogs.
Cem Akin, the organization's lead investigator on the issue, said the problem is not the use of dogs for food but the
methods of killing.
'We Koreans Have to Defend Our Traditions'
To say that Koreans are defensive about this matter is an understatement. Hardly a day goes by without an indignant
editorial in the South Korean press defending the eating of dog meat to the point where it has become a national
obsession. The editorialists cite everything from anthropological theories of cultural relativism to Confucian principles of
hierarchy that make it acceptable for a human being to consume animals of lower position.
The official South Korean news agency, Yonhap, gloatingly reports the discovery of a village in Switzerland where smoked
dog meat sausage is a local specialty, while China's ambassador to Seoul, Li Bin, was widely quoted in the South Korean
press after he spoke up at a breakfast meeting of editors in support of dog-eating as an integral part of Korean culture.
A group of 167 prominent Koreans, including intellectuals, academics and trade unionists, issued a statement last month
denouncing Western critics of dog-eating as "ethnocentric" and the "real barbarians for failing to understand the relativity
of culinary culture."
"We do not understand the snail-eating, horse meat-eating cuisine that some Westerners seem to like," read their
statement. "Korea should not attempt to appease [foreign] critics, for to do so is to betray their own culture."
Issue Is Debated on the Internet
An emotional and often ribald debate has erupted too on the Internet. One angry defender of eating dog declares that
Bardot likes dogs because "animals can't talk back and tell her how stupid she is!!!"--one of the few printable messages.
Exasperated by the whole affair and eager to put the matter to rest before the opening of the World Cup in May, the South
Korean legislature last month introduced a bill that would formally legalize the eating of dog but regulate the manner in
which canines are slaughtered. Although electric shock is now widely used, traditional methods included burning, boiling,
strangling and beating, based on the belief that a frightened animal experiences an adrenalin rush that makes its flesh a
medicine against male impotency.
"Korean men would eat absolutely anything if they thought it would increase their virility," complains Kum Sun Ran, the
director and founder of the Korean Animal Protection Society. The wife of a pharmacist, Kum says that there is no medical
evidence that dog meat cures impotency, but that unethical dog meat vendors and restaurants sometimes slip aphrodisiacs
into the meat to promote the myth. "I try to tell the men that even if it is true, now there is Viagra and they don't need to
eat dog. But they do not listen."
Braving torrents of hate mail, Kum has led a lonely campaign here against dog-eating. She regularly visits the livestock
markets to see how dogs are being treated and engages the salesmen in conversation. Her argument is that it was OK for
Koreans to eat dog back in the days when it was a badly needed source of protein, but that the practice now should rise
beyond its past--and beyond other Asian countries where dog meat is regularly consumed.
"Korea is an affluent country. It can't be compared to Vietnam or Sri Lanka or China. It is time for this abominable
practice to be stopped," Kum said.
An estimated 2 million canines are raised each year in South Korea for dog meat--about the same number as are kept as
In the shadow of the modern high-rises of downtown Seoul, you can find live dogs offered for slaughter at a sprawling
outdoor market. They are huddled for warmth in small mesh cages, stacked next to ducks, chickens and the occasional cat.
(Although Koreans do not regularly eat cat meat, some people believe soup of boiled cat to be a tonic against rheumatism.)
"We've been eating dogs like this for a long time. My grandfather raised dogs. It is part of our tradition," said Choi Il Jong,
a vendor. He says the dogs, most of them yellow-brown in color, are "what we consider lower-grade mixed-breed dogs that
are raised in the countryside. We kill them by electric shock. They don't suffer."
In 1988, when the Summer Olympics were held in Seoul, a similar controversy erupted over dog meat, and the
government tried to close down dog restaurants to avoid offending foreign visitors. But the Koreans are taking a harder
line about defending their cuisine this time, and there are no such moves underway today.
South Korea is home to an estimated 6,000 restaurants that specialize in dog. One of the best known is Sarijib, a
traditional restaurant in northern Seoul where customers sit around low tables on the floor and feast on poshintang,
literally "nutritional boost soup," which is said to be helpful for people recovering from operations.
"Doctors recommend dog meat. It is easier to digest than other meats," says waitress Park Sun Ae, serving up steaming
bowls of the bright broth. "We have a lot of customers who are singers and performers who want dog soup to protect their
voices, weak people too who need the nutrition. . . . We
A 'Clash' Between Older, Younger Generations
Korean cuisine includes many ingredients that might make Westerners pause. One popular dish that street vendors spoon
out from gurgling caldrons is pondaegi, a snack made of the larvae of silkworms. It is said to be a favorite of children. In
his book, "The Koreans," author Michael Breen describes his first impression of Korean soups as full of "murky items" that
appear to have "been dropped in by mistake."
But the dog meat flap is not merely a clash between Western and Eastern civilizations. Many South Koreans too are
squeamish about eating dog.
"There is certainly a clash between the older and younger generation, and this is elegantly depicted by apartment
complexes where you can find a pet shop frequented by the young out in front and a dog meat restaurant in the back
alley," said filmmaker Bong Joon Ho, whose film "Barking Dogs Never Bite" released in 2000 deals with the conflicts in a
building between dog lovers, dog haters and dog eaters.
Traditionally, dogs were treated as farmyard animals, but their popularity as household pets has soared in recent years as
the country has become more affluent. In middle-class neighborhoods, veterinary clinics and pet stores selling expensive
dog sweaters can be found on almost every street.
Even by the standards of Europe, where dogs are permitted in many restaurants, South Koreans now go to extraordinary
lengths to indulge their pets. A Seoul movie theater recently hosted a film screening designed for dogs and their owners. At
least 10 cafes have opened in South Korea in the past year that are designed specifically for dog owners, and new cafes are
reported to be opening regularly.
BAUHaus, a cafe near Seoul's main art school, is crowded on a weekday afternoon with mostly young women and teenage
girls cooing over their pets. The owner, former art student Jeong Jin Woo, who opened the cafe in April, predicts that in
the coming years the habit of eating dog will gradually fade into oblivion with the passing of the older generation.
"Our culinary culture cannot be changed overnight, but it is clear that the dog-eating population is becoming smaller than
the dog-owning population," Jeong said. Though he himself owns 10 dogs, Jeong has tasted dog and defends the tradition.
"I love dogs, but it really is no different from eating a cow or a sheep. An animal is an animal."
Other Korean dog owners too are surprisingly tolerant of the tradition. Kim Ju Young, owner of the beagle Blue, is so crazy
about dogs that she will only take a job where she can bring her dog to the office and says she would defer having children
if it would upset her dog. Yet she too tasted dog as a girl--her parents secretly fed her dog meat soup when she was
preparing for exams to improve her health and performance.
"We Koreans have to defend our traditions. I read once that the queen of England eats pigeon for breakfast. Now that's
disgusting," Kim said.
*Chi Jung Nam of The Times' Seoul Bureau contributed to this report.
Essay: What is going on in Korean culture with respect to dogs? Who is keeping the old practice? Who is
embracing the new practice? What has influenced this change? Use vocabulary and concepts from the
chapter “Folk and Popular Culture” in your textbook and class discussion to analyze this phenomenon in a
thoughtful 3-5 page essay. Typed, double-spaced, proofread.
Grading: I will be looking for a) your use of key terms from the chapter and PowerPoint, and b) your ability
to accurately utilize the concepts presented in the lesson to explain the situation described in the article.
Although you are welcome to comment, this is not an essay about your personal feelings about eating dog
Key Terms: Folk culture, popular culture, culture, customs, taboo, tradition, change, globalization,
influence, diffusion, hierarchical diffusion, contagious diffusion, relocation diffusion, global diffusion,
geographical distribution, isolation, modern Western urban culture, cultural imperialism, traditional local
folk culture, secular, religious, consumerism, advertising, mass produced, individualized, mass media,
Internet, television, movies, younger generation, older generation, assimilation, acculturation, cultural
relativism, cultural diversity, uniform landscapes, traditional values, homogenous groups, heterogeneous
groups, economic development, MDCs, LDCs .
For Native Alaskans, Tradition Is Yielding To
By SARAH KERSHAW
Published: August 21, 2004
When it became clear that the elders in this isolated Eskimo village on St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea
approved of the marriage, Clifford Apatiki's relatives did what was required of them: They bought him his
That meant, according to a fast-fading custom here among the Siberian Yupiks, a small but sturdy native
Alaskan tribe that has inhabited this treeless and brutally windy island since about A.D. 500, that Mr. Apatiki's
family would spend at least a year coming up with the payment. They called on their relatives, here in Gambell,
over in Savoonga, the other Yupik village on this island 38 miles from the Chukchi peninsula in Russia, and
across Alaska, to send them things -- sealskins, rifles, bread, a toaster, a house full of gifts.
When the bride's family accepted the offerings, Mr. Apatiki, a skilled ivory carver and polar bear hunter, did
what was required of him: he went to work for her family as a kind of indentured servant for a year, hunting
seal, whale and polar bear, and doing chores.
The marriage between Mr. Apatiki, 30, and the former Jennifer Campbell, 29, who was a bookkeeper for the
village tribal council, was formalized five years ago, when traditional marriages such as theirs were still the
norm here. But now the couple worry whether their children will follow suit because even in five years this and
other centuries-old traditions in this village of 700 have been slipping away, as one of the most remote villages
on earth finally contends with the modern world.
''I'm sure people will continue to do it for a while,'' Mrs. Apatiki said one evening in the living room of her onestory home in the village. ''If the tradition isn't in effect with some families, they are whispered about. They will
say about a girl, 'She was not bought.'''
Still, it is of great concern to the elders in Gambell that this marriage tradition is disappearing in the face of
whirlwind change here over the last decade. Life has shifted so much in Gambell, where satellite television,
rising rates of alcoholism and a growing rejection by the younger generation of the Yupik language and customs
have begun to chip away at tradition and at a hunting-and-gathering subsistence lifestyle, that it is as if the
world here is playing on videotape stuck on fast-forward.
And fewer couples are getting married in the traditional way, despite pleas from their parents and grandparents
in this whaling community. The rising tension between the old ways and the new ones, between older
generations and younger ones, is playing out in native villages across this state, where 16 percent of the
population is native Alaskan, comprising 11 distinct cultures and speaking 20 different languages. The Internet,
much more regular airline travel and other modern advances are connecting even the most remote Alaskan
villages to mainstream society.
''Gambell, it has changed quite a bit now,'' said Winfred James, 82, one of the village's most knowledgeable
elders, one recent evening in his living room, where he was watching a CNN interview with Senator John Kerry
and his wife. ''Westernization is coming in.''
Mr. James said he and other elders were deeply concerned about losing the marriage customs, ''but it probably
will change with the next generation.''
''We try to teach them to do that, you know,'' he added. ''So they can know each other, so they can stick
Village residents say that more and more young couples are simply living together and not pursuing the
traditional marriage customs or that men are working for the families of their fiancées for much shorter periods,
if at all.
''They work for maybe a month, and then I guess they forget,'' said Christopher Koonooka, 26, who teaches at
the village school in a bilingual program. Mr. Koonooka said he saw many of his peers rejecting the old
The Siberian Yupiks inhabit Gambell and Savoonga, another village of 700 people about 50 miles from here,
and parts of the Siberian Chukchi Peninsula, where about 900 Siberian Yupiks live. Gambell was named after a
Presbyterian missionary, Vene Gambell, who came to St. Lawrence Island in the late 1800's. He was followed
by other missionaries, whose Western-sounding surnames made their way into the lineage of the Yupiks.
The first working telephones were installed here in the 1970's, and television was not readily available until
about a decade ago; running water became available to about half of the homes here about five years ago.
Before satellite television, Gambell residents watched the news at least two weeks late on videotapes flown in
with other supplies from Nome, the closest city on the Alaska mainland, 200 miles away and reachable only by
Almost every house has a satellite dish, and the first cellular telephone tower was built, near the one-room
trailer that serves as the police station, a few years ago.
The people here generally welcome much of the technology even as the village elders and others say television
is a particularly disturbing force.
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