As the Winter Olympics got underway in PyeongChang, dog meat was still being openly served in most restaurants that offer it, despite attempts by the government to keep a lid on the practice.
The South Korean government had requested restaurants cease the practice and even offered subsidies to those that did, but only two of the 12 restaurants serving dog meat in PyeongChang complied, a county government official told AFP.
A minority of South Koreans still consume dog meat — most commonly in a soup called boshintang — many of them in the belief it leads to increased energy during the hot summer months.
Between 1 and 2 million dogs a year across the country a year are butchered and sold at markets and to restaurants.
Well before the Olympics began, activists stepped up campaigns to ban dog consumption, with protests in Seoul and online petitions urging boycotts.
In PyeongChang, the county government asked the restaurants with dog meat items on the menu to stop serving the food in exchange for subsidies.
“Some of them initially shifted to selling pork or things instead of dog meat only to find their sales plunging sharply. They then switched back to dog meat,” PyeongChang County government official Lee Yong-bae told AFP.
“We’ve faced a lot of complaints from restaurant operators that we are threatening their livelihood,” he said.
Signs advertising dog meat dishes such as boshintang, yeongyangtang or sacheoltang have been replaced with more neutral ones such as yeomsotang (goat soup) to avoid giving “a bad impression to foreigners” during the games, according to Channel News Asia.
South Korean authorities periodically try to persuade restaurants to change their menus or drop signs suggestive of dog meat during major international events hosted by the country, as was the case with the Summer Olympics in Seoul in 1988.
The tradition has declined as the nation increasingly embraces the idea of dogs as pets instead of livestock, and most younger South Koreans avoid it.
A Gangwon province official told The Associated Press there were no plans to relocate dog farms situated near Olympic areas. There is one farm near Pyeongchang; six near Jeongseon, where the downhill skiing course is located; and 10 in Gangnueng, the coastal town that will host events like figure skating and hockey. Gangwon has 196 registered dog farms, though most are closer to Seoul.
While NBC isn’t too likely to be showing us any of the during its Olympics coverage, USA Today provided a fairly expansive report on one such farm today
Hundreds of dogs have been removed from Korean dog farms by Humane Society International and sent to the United States for adoption, including mine, a Jindo named Jinjja.
The group assists the farmers in establishing new careers in exchange for closing down and surrendering their dogs.
Duhamel adopted one of them, through the group Free Korean Dogs.
“Most of the time, he just wants to sit in everybody’s arms,” Duhamel said of the dachshund mix, named Moo-tae. “He doesn’t even care to play, he just walks up to everybody and wants to be held.”
Duhamel, a silver medalist in Sochi, is hoping to assist in closing a dog farm once the Olympics conclude. She, American skier Gus Kenworthy and American snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis have appeared in a public service announcement about the dog meat trade.
Duhamel has arranged to fly home another rescued farm dog when she returns to Canada, so it can be put up for adoption there, according to CBS News.
(Photos: At top, Park Young-ae, owner of Young Hoon Restaurant, arranges dog meats at her restaurant in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Associated Press; photo of Duhamel and Moo-tae, courtesy of Free Korean Dogs)