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In South Korea, 200 canines find a saviour

In this January 27 photo, Jung Myoung Sook (61) holds her puppies she rescued at a shelter in Asan, South Korea. In the country, where dogs are considered a traditional delicacy and have only recently become popular as pets, Ms. Jung’s love for her canine friends is viewed by some as odd. But others see her as a champion of animal rights.

In this January 27 photo, Jung Myoung Sook (61) holds her puppies she rescued at a shelter in Asan, South Korea. In the country, where dogs are considered a traditional delicacy and have only recently become popular as pets, Ms. Jung’s love for her canine friends is viewed by some as odd. But others see her as a champion of animal rights.  

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Jung Myoung Sook has saved the dogs -- some of which were strays and others destined for the dinner plate.

Puppies bark and wag their tails as they follow a gray-haired woman through a hillside compound that shelters more than 200 dogs.

“Hey, my babies. Give your mom a kiss,” says Jung Myoung Sook (61). She lowers her face and one puppy near a snow-covered kennel licks her lips; another gently paws her cheek.

They are a delicacy here

In South Korea, where dogs are considered a traditional delicacy and have only recently become popular as pets, Ms. Jung’s love for her canine friends is viewed by some as odd. But others see her as a champion of animal rights.

Rescuing and caring for dogs for 26 years, Ms. Jung has moved seven times because of neighbours’ complaints about noise. She often stops to pick up dogs roaming the streets, and has bought others in danger of being sold to dog meat farms or restaurants.

No, she is not rich

Some question whether someone as poor as Ms. Jung, who ekes out a living cleaning a store and collecting recyclable boxes, can feed and care for so many dogs. While Ms. Jung’s dogs looked healthy and well-fed during a recent visit by The Associated Press, their condition couldn’t be independently confirmed.

Authorities in the central city of Asan know about Ms. Jung’s current shelter, which she opened in 2014, but have no legal responsibility to inspect it, according to an official who refused to give his name because he wasn’t authorized to speak to media on the matter.

Keeping pets, a recent trend

Pets are growing in popularity here, where one in five households has a cat or dog, but activists say public attitudes toward pets lag those in the West.

Supporters of Ms. Jung see her as a heroine, saving stray or lost dogs from being killed for food or euthanized at public shelters if not adopted or found by their owners. About 81,000 stray or abandoned animals, mostly dogs and cats, were sent to public shelters in 2014, down from 100,000 in 2010, the government said.

Here, they can play and live freely

“My babies aren’t hungry. They can play and live freely here,” said Ms. Jung, whose clothes are worn and hair is dishevelled. “Some people talk about me, saying, ‘Why is that beggar-like middle-aged woman smiling all the time,’ but I just focus on feeding my babies. I’m happy and healthy.”

Dozens of other South Koreans are believed to be raising large numbers of dogs, sometimes in unsanitary conditions where diseases spread easily. Ms. Jung has said her dogs are mostly healthy, although some die in fights with each other.

She spends $1600 on them, per month

Most of the dogs live with her for good. She said she spends about $1,600 a month on food and medicine, and otherwise relies on donations of soybean milk, pork, dog food and canned meat. Family, friends and sometimes strangers send her money.

Park Hye-soon, a local restaurant owner, has given Ms. Jung leftover pork for four years.

“She lives only for her dogs,” he said, “without doing much for herself.”

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Printable version | Dec 8, 2019 10:32:25 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/in-south-korea-200-canines-find-a-saviour/article8188112.ece

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