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Live dogs on sale in North Korea. File photo

North Koreans eating pet dogs story is of questionable pedigree: Russia

  • Seoul newspaper claimed Kim Jong-un had forced North Koreans to give up their pets and sell them to dog meat restaurants to beat food shortages
  • But Russian embassy in Pyongyang suggests this may be little more than a shaggy-dog story
North Korea
The Russian embassy in Pyongyang has denied a news report from Seoul that North Koreans are being forced to give up their pet dogs to be cooked in restaurants.
South Korea’s largest circulation newspaper Chosun reported this month that leader Kim Jong-un had banned pet ownership, denouncing it as “a tainted trend” of “bourgeois ideology”.

Pet dogs, a preserve of Pyongyang’s wealthy elites, were seen by North Korean authorities as a symbol of capitalist “decadence”, said the newspaper.

“Authorities have identified households with pet dogs and are forcing them to give them up or forcefully confiscating them and putting them down,” the newspaper claimed, citing an unidentified source.

South Korea hopes to cull its dog meat trade, but the tradition will linger

It said the moves were linked to chronic food shortages in the impoverished country and that some of the dogs were being sent to state-run zoos or sold to dog meat restaurants.

The report, written by a former North Korean defector, was picked up by multiple news outlets including in Britain.

However, the Russian embassy accused foreign media of spreading “wild” rumours that were “far from the truth”.

It said keeping pets had become fashionable in the city and that it had become common to see dogs “walking with their owners on the streets of Pyongyang and other Korean cities”. Breeding dogs had been encouraged, it added, after Kim identified it as a sign of a modern society.

However, it acknowledged that embassy officials had recently been told not to let their pets out of the car when they went for walks in the park, but said this was due to stricter rules aimed at limited the spread of the coronavirus.

A delicacy

Dog meat has traditionally been consumed in Korea as a speciality summer dish to beat the heat.

The practice is in sharp decline in the prosperous South, where keeping pets has become a part of normal life.

But it is still popular in the North, where dog is served as a delicacy at “dangogi” (sweat meat) restaurants in Pyongyang.

In Indonesia, some cash-strapped residents are selling pet dogs as food

Food shortages in the North are thought to have worsened due to recent crop failures caused by flooding, coronavirus distancing measures, and as a result of international sanctions over the country’s nuclear programme.

Dog meat dishes are popular choices for people taking part in the culinary competitions that take place in Pyongyang every summer.

Meanwhile, state-controlled media promote its health benefits, claiming it promotes intestinal health and has superior nutritional value to chicken, pork, beef or duck.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Dog meat reports of doubtful pedigree