Being a visible person here in Busan, for both my work with BAPS and my position as a radio personality in Busan eFM, I’ve often been put on the spot for my stance on dog eating here in Korea, both in private and in the media.
It has become my policy to take a deep breath, swallow my gut instinct, and repeat the following statement every time:
“I am a foreigner in South Korea. As a world traveler, I understand that different countries have different traditions, and I think we humans should realize that not everyone has the same set of morals as you do. Someone from India might find offense in the fact that I enjoy a medium rare cut of beef… A devout Saudi friend will certainly not enjoy pork ribs with me. Thus, from a cultural perspective, as a foreigner I am in no moral place to either condemn, or praise the eating of Dog by Koreans.”
I recognize that Koreans attach nationalistic pride to the elements of their culture they consider “traditional”, and this issue can become a rallying point to people here. Individuals who may not feel a particular inclination to eat dog meat as a meal, will often raise an outcry of support to the practice out of what they see as foreigner interference.
Therefore, I will leave the campaigning, accusing, and decrying to my fellow Korean animal activists. I do not want to turn this issue into a “foreigners-versus-Koreans” fight. Rather, It should be a Korean internal issue, to be dealt with by the locals.
However, more and more there are Koreans who recognize that the dog is more than just an animal. Singularly amongst all animals in the world, humans have bred dogs for more than just a source of food. By our genetic manipulation over at least 16,000 years, dogs have been domesticated to be companions, caretakers, guardians, and partners in the human experience.
By our own human hand, we have bred them to share with us our complex emotional realities, and they have the abilities to express feelings thoughts and emotions to us. No other animal has been domesticated this way (sorry feline lovers). Dogs have obtained the ability to read our faces, smell out emotional states, understand our words, and in turn, make themselves understood to us. We have given them the ability to understand thoughts and emotions as complex as guilt, envy, separation anxiety, greed, love, gratitude, manipulation, deception, and the greatest of all, trust.
I believe it is the destiny of every living creature, humans included, to one day die and become nourishment for other life forms. One day I will die, and microbes will feed of my flesh, and in turn they will feed other organisms. That is the circle of life. Life begets life. Life must take life to continue. Even our vegan friends are taking life away from plants to sustain themselves. It is the way of the earth.
But thankfully, we humans are more than just part of a blind, unstoppable cycle. We have the ability to make choices about who or what we consume. And we are not alone. Dogs are natural predators. But they, as a species, have made a choice. They do not eat us. They could. But, they have made a choice based on a mutual partnership based on trust. They trust that we will provide them with food. That trust is what stops them from killing and eating humans, which they are very capable of. What other large carnivore predator has made such a covenant with humanity?
We also have a choice. Koreans have a choice. A choice to ignore tradition. A choice to be able to step back and realize that tradition is not a guarantee for “right”.
Female mutilation… Slavery… Apartheid… Discrimination of lower classes… Religious persecution… all those could be considered tradition at some point in history. Yet they were evil practices.
And course it must be mentioned. Death comes to all. but the manner in which it comes is of supreme importance. Death by vicious torturing is undesirable for any creature, no matter what species. The death that Korean superstition requires for dogs to provide proper "stamina" is brutal, inhumane, and unjust.
So, what’s my point of view on Koreans eating dog? Tongue in cheek, I have no *official* position. But I hope that with my example of caring and loving all dogs, the position should be obvious.
But I leave the protesting and condemnation to Koreans. And I ask foreigners to do the same, and let them handle it internally.