Dog meat consumption in South Korea

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Dog meat consumption in South Korea
Dog Meat.jpg
Dog meat on sale in a market
Hangul 고기
Revised Romanization Gaegogi
McCune–Reischauer Kaegogi
North Korean name
Hangul 고기
Revised Romanization Dan(-)gogi
McCune–Reischauer Tan'gogi

The consumption of dog meat in South Korea, where it is known as "Gaegogi" (Korean: 개고기), has a long history originating during Three Kingdoms of Korea, AD C. 57.[1] In recent years, it has been controversial both in South Korea and around the world, due to animal rights and sanitary concerns. Dog meat is also consumed in North Korea, but the extent or form of this activity is unclear.


The consumption of dog meat can be traced back to antiquity, and dog bones were excavated in a neolithic settlement in Changnyeong, South Gyeongsang Province. A wall painting in the Goguryeo tombs complex in South Hwanghae Province, a UNESCO World Heritage site which dates from 4th century AD, depicts a slaughtered dog in a storehouse (Ahn, 2000).[2] The Balhae people also enjoyed dog meat, and the Koreans' appetite for canine cuisine seems to have come from that era.[3]

Koreans have distinguished Chinese terms for dog "견; 犬", which refers to pet dogs, feral dogs, and wolves from the Chinese term "구; 狗," which is used specifically to indicate dog meat.[4]

Approximately In 1816, Jeong Hak-yu, the second son of Jeong Yak-yong, a prominent politician and scholar of Joseon dynasty at the time, wrote a poem called Nongga Wollyeongga (농가월령가). This poem, which is an important source of Korean folk history, describes what ordinary Korean farming families did in each month of a year. In the description of the month of August the poem tells of a married woman visiting her birth parents with boiled dog meat, rice cake, and rice wine, thus showing the popularity of dog meat at the time (Ahn, 2000; Seo, 2002). Dongguk Sesigi (동국세시기), a book written by a Korean scholar Hong Seok-mo in 1849, contains a recipe of Bosintang including a boiled dog, green onion, and red chili pepper powder.[2]

Current situation[edit]

Dog meat sold at Gyeongdong Market, Seoul, South Korea

Although 5 to 30% of South Koreans have eaten dog meat at least once in their lifetime, only a small percentage of the population eats it regularly. There is a large group of Korean people that are against the practice of eating dog meat.[5] There is also a large population of people in South Korea that do not eat or enjoy the meat, but do feel strongly that it is the right of others to do so.[5] There is a smaller group of pro-dog cuisine people in South Korea who want to popularize the consumption of dog in Korea and the rest of the world,[5] considering it to be part of the traditional culture of Korea with a long history worth preserving.

The BBC claims that in 2003, approximately 4,000–6,000 restaurants served soups made from dog meat in Korea.[6] The soups cost about US$10 while dishes of steamed dog meat with rice cost about US$25. The BBC claims that 8,500 tons of dog meat are consumed per year, with another 93,600 tons used to produce a medicinal tonic called Gaesoju (개소주).[6]

Dog meat is often consumed during the summer months and is either roasted or prepared in soups or stews.[7] The most popular of these soups is Gaejang-guk, a spicy stew meant to balance the body's heat during the summer months. This is thought to ensure good health by balancing one's "ki" or vital energy of the body. A 19th century version of Gaejang-guk (개장국) explains the preparation of the dish by boiling dog meat with green onions and chili powder. Variations of the dish contain chicken and bamboo shoots.[8]

Dogs used for meat[edit]

The primary dog breed raised for meat is a non-specific landrace commonly named as Nureongi (누렁이), or Hwangu (황구).[9][10] Nureongi are not the only type of dog currently slaughtered for their meat in South Korea. In 2015, the The Korea Observer reported that many different pet breeds of dog are bred to be eaten, including for example, labradors, retrievers and cocker spaniels, and that the dogs slaughtered for their meat often include former pets.[11][12][13]

In 2010, the Korean Statistics Information Service reported there were 892,820 dogs in 100,191 farms.[11]

The majority of dogs are slaughtered by electrocution, hanging and being beaten over the head before exsanguination.[11]

In 2015, it was reported that when retrievers are sold as meat dogs, they cost over 200,000 Korean Won (£140 British pounds or $180 US dollars).[11]

Legal status[edit]

Between 1975 and 1978, dogs had the full legal status of livestock animals in South Korea, but the legality of the dog meat trade is now highly disputed. South Korea adopted its first Animal Protection Law in May, 1991.[14]

Currently, Article 7 of the Animal Protection Act does not explicitly prohibit the slaughter of dogs for food, however, it "prohibits killing animals in a brutal way". In addition, it "forbids killing the dogs in open areas such as on the street or in front of other animals of the same species".[11]

The controversy over dog meat has led to lobbying for/against regulation as well as differing interpretations of existing laws.

Dog meat is subject to the Food Sanitation Act/Food Hygiene Act of 1962, which simply defines food" as "all foodstuff, except taken as medicine". However, unlike beef, pork, or poultry, dog meat is excluded from the list of livestock under the Livestock Processing Act of 1962,[note 1] which is "the principal statute governing hygienic slaughtering of livestock and processing of meat." Hence dog meat farming is under-regulated compared to that of other stock animals.[15]

As a result, there are no regulations requiring the humane slaughter of dogs for meat. The controversy over dog meat consumption often centers on the slaughtering methods employed, which include electrocution, strangulation by hanging, and physically beating the dog to death. Some dogs are still alive when they are blow-torched or thrown into boiling water to remove their fur.[16] Some in South Korea and abroad believe that dog meat should be expressly legalized so that only authorized preparers can deal with the meat in more humane and sanitary ways, while others think that the practice should be banned by law.

In 2008, the Seoul Metropolitan Government proposed a recommendation to the national government to add dogs to the list of livestock whose slaughter is regulated by law.[17] However, activist groups attacked the proposal as legitimizing or legalizing the trade in dog meat.[18][19] The city dropped the proposal, but an official from the national government was quoted as saying “It’s the sole idea of the city. We have not been consulted at all .... I don’t think we are planning to even consider this option.”[20]

Types of dishes[edit]

Gaegogi Jeongol
See also: Korean cuisine
  • Bosintang (보신탕; 補身湯); Gaejangguk (개장국) Stew containing boiled dog meat and vegetables.[21]
  • Gaegogi Jeongol (개고기 전골) – An elaborate dog stew made in a large Jeongol pan.
  • Gae Suyuk (개 수육; 개水肉)- Boiled dog meat[21]
  • Gaegogi Muchim (개고기 무침) – Steamed dog meat, Korean leeks (부추), and vegetables mixed with spices[21]
  • Gaesoju (개소주; 개燒酒) – Mixed drink containing dog meat and other Chinese medicine ingredients such as ginger, chestnut, and jujube to invigorate one's health.[6][22]

International scrutiny[edit]

During the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, the South Korean government urged its citizens not to consume dog meat in order to avoid bad publicity during the games, along with a request to butcher shops not to hang dog carcasses in the windows.[23] It also closed all restaurants serving Gaejang-guk to better improve the country's image to Western visitors. A 1998 Salon article reported that despite officially being banned by the government for a decade, nearly 20,000 restaurants at the time were still serving dog meat.[13] South Korea's successful bid to join the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 1996 prompted a new wave of criticism against South Korea's dog meat culture. Activists argue that as whale meat consumption declined in Japan after the 1964 Summer Olympics, South Koreans should reduce their consumption of dog meat.[24]

The controversy surfaced again in 2001 during the 2002 FIFA World Cup.[25][26] The organizers of the games, under pressure from animal rights groups such as PETA demanded that the Korean government re-address the issue. Brigitte Bardot, a prominent head of a French animal rights organization which is named after her, launched a campaign during the 2002 FIFA World Cup to have dog meat outlawed in Korea. She prompted people to boycott the games if the government did not outlaw the sale of dog meat in restaurants in Seoul.


In Korea, some people eat Bosintang (literally "invigorating soup"), believing it to have medicinal properties, particularly as relates to virility. In South Korea dog meat is also believed to encourage one's energy or virility and usually consumed during the intense Korean summer, whereas in China dog meat is consumed in the winter months under the belief that it increases warmth. There is no scientific evidence to support any purported health benefits from consuming dog meat.

Many Korean Buddhists consider eating meat, including dog meat, an offense.[27]

In recent years, some Korean people have changed their attitudes towards eating dog meat from "personal choice" to "unnecessary cruelty." Animal rights activists in South Korea protest against the custom of eating dog meat.[28] Since 1988, international animal welfare activists – most notably, French actress Brigitte Bardot – have campaigned against dog meat consumption in South Korea. However, Korean nationalists on the internet have defended the consumption of dog meat, accusing animal welfare activists of forcing "Westernization" on Korea.[24] A 2007 survey by the Korean Ministry of Agriculture showed that 59% of Koreans aged under 30 would not eat dog. Some 62% of the same age group said they regard dogs as pets, not food.[29] Many young Koreans think those who eat dog are anachronists.[30]

In Defense of Animals opposes the consumption and trade of dog meat in Korea, viewing it as an unregulated industry, with conditions it views as unsanitary and cruel.[31] Korea Animal Rights Advocates (KARA) estimates that approximately 2.5 million dogs are slaughtered in South Korea every year.[32] Several organizations, such as In Defense of Animals, KARA, Guardians of Rescue, and[7], are petitioning the South Korean government to ban dog meat consumption.

Korean Americans have used lawsuits against public figures who mention this aspect of Korean cuisine. During the 2002 Winter Olympics, TV host Jay Leno joked that the Korean skater Kim Dong-Sung would eat his dog. The MCIC Group filed a class-action lawsuit against Leno on behalf of 50,000 Korean Americans, demanding an apology and monetary damages.[24]

The animal welfare advocacy group, Animal Welfare Institute, has called for letters of protest about the dog meat trade to be sent to the South Korean president and ambassador to the United States prior to South Korea hosting the 2018 winter Olympics.[33] charity World Dog alliance raised a successful e-petition in 2012, calling for the UK Government to intervene and oppose the cruelty. On November 5, 2015, the issue was finally debated in the House of Commons Chamber.[34] A second debate on South Korea’s dog meat trade in Parliament has been scheduled for September 2016 by the Petitions Committee, following an e-petition which was started on[35]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ In August 1975, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (now the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries) included dog in the legal definition of livestock under the Ministerial Ordinance of the LPA (then the Livestock Hygienic Treatment Act). But in June 1978, “dog” was deleted from the list of livestock. (Kim, R. 2008)


  1. ^ Sarah Knight, ed. (2009). New Perspectives on Human-Animal Interactions: Theory, Policy and Research Journal of Social Issues. John Wiley & Sons. p. 619. ISBN 1444333062. ISSN 0022-4537. 
  2. ^ a b [1] 2008 Seoul Shinmoon article
  3. ^ A Study of the favorite Foods of the Balhae People Yang Ouk-da
  4. ^ S. Huh. (2004, p.83). 비주, 숨겨진 우리 술을 찾아서 [Rediscovering Korean liquors]. Paju, Korea: Woongjin Thinkbig. ISBN 89-01-04720-9
  5. ^ a b c Do Koreans Really Eat Dog?
  6. ^ a b c South Korea's dog day, BBC News, 17 August 1999.
  7. ^ Kim, Tae-Yi, Reuters, "Dog on the menu in Korea to beat the heat Archived July 17, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.", Yahoo! News, 14 July 2011; retrieved 15 July 2011.
  8. ^ Pettid, Michael J., Korean Cuisine: An Illustrated History, London: Reaktion Books Ltd., 2008, 84–85.
  9. ^ Podberscek, Anthony L. (2009). "Good to Pet and Eat: The Keeping and Consuming of Dogs and Cats in South Korea" (PDF). Journal of Social Issues. 65 (3): 615–632. doi:10.1111/j.1540-4560.2009.01616.x. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-19. 
  10. ^ Dog Meat Foods in Korea, Ann, Yong-Geun, Korean Medical Database
  11. ^ a b c d e Hyams, J. (January 15, 2015). "Former pets slaughtered for dog meat across Korea". The Korea Observer. Retrieved July 6, 2015. 
  12. ^ Delicious yet sometimes peculiar Korean cuisine 23 April 2009, Helsinki Times
  13. ^ a b Potts, Rolf (28 Oct 1998). "Man Bites Dog". Salon. Archived from the original on 7 January 2000. Retrieved 7 January 2015. 
  14. ^ International Aid for Korean Animals. "South Korea's animal protection laws". International Aid for Korean Animals. Retrieved July 7, 2016. 
  15. ^ Kim, R.E. (2007). "Dog meat in Korea: A socio-legal challenge". Animal Law. 14: 201. 
  16. ^ "Dogs 'blow-torched' alive.” BBC News. March 11, 1999
  17. ^ "Seoul Categorizing Dogs as Livestock" Kim Tae-jong, Korea Times. 2008-03-24 Archived December 8, 2015, at the Wayback Machine.
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ [2] "Dogs may be designated as livestock" Brian Lee, Korea Joong Ang Daily. Apr 12, 2008
  21. ^ a b c 2004 Seoul Shinmoon article
  22. ^ [3] Doosan Encyclopedia
  23. ^ Derr, Mark (2004). Dog's Best Friend. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 26–27. ISBN 0-226-14280-9. 
  24. ^ a b c Feffer, John (June 2002). "The Politics of Dog". American Prospect. 13 (10): 30–33. 
  25. ^ "Fifa warns S Korea over dog meat". BBC News Asia-Pacific. 2001-11-06. Retrieved 2006-12-01. 
  26. ^ "S Korea dog meat row deepens". BBC News Asia-Pacific. 2001-11-12. Retrieved 2006-12-01. 
  27. ^ 마성 (6 October 2004). 불교는 육식을 금하는 종교인가 [Is Buddhism a Religion that Restricts Meat Eating?]. The Buddhist Review (in Korean). Seoul, Korea. Retrieved 16 October 2010. 현재 한국의 사찰에서는 관습적으로 육식을 금하고 있기 때문이다. 
  28. ^ Activists protest against dog meat eating, BBC[4]
  29. ^ Daniel Tieu. "Stop the Dog/Cat Meat Trade in Korea by the 2018 Olympics". Causes website. Retrieved 12 July 2014. 
  30. ^ Young Koreans turn their noses up at dog dinners By Daniel Jeffreys in Seoul,3 August 2007,
  31. ^ In Defense of Animals Dogs of South Korea Campaign
  32. ^ KARA Current Situation of Korea's Dog Meat Industry
  33. ^ Animal Welfare Institute. "The dog meat trade". Animal Welfare Institute. Retrieved July 7, 2016. 
  34. ^ MPs Debate The Dog Meat Trade [5]
  35. ^ Debate on South Korea and The Dog Meat Trade [6]
  • Ahn, Y. (2000). 한국인과 개고기 [Koreans and dog meat]. Seoul: Hyoil. (ISBN 8985768964)
  • Seo, J. (2002). 한국무속인열전 1 [Korean Shamans I]. Seoul: Woosuk Publishing. (ISBN 8936104314)

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Dog at Wikibook Cookbooks

Media related to Dog meat at Wikimedia Commons