[EDITORIALS]Keep dogs off the streets

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[EDITORIALS]Keep dogs off the streets

A national association of dog meat restaurants has decided to host dog meat soup sampling parties for foreign visitors during the World Cup. The association appears to have been encouraged by the positive response to the dish by a group of students and teachers from the French school in Seoul.

But the association's plans are misguided and should be scuttled.

Korea has a strong culinary tradition, although elements are misunderstood overseas. Street sampling parties near soccer stadiums would anger Western animal-rights activists, be seen as a demonstration of Korean cultural unilateralism, and would hardly provide the proper setting for introducing foreigners to a soup that many Koreans savor.

In the past, our dishes made from dog meat have been criticized, even ridiculed, by people from other countries. During the 1988 Olympics, we reluctantly found it necessary to change the name of dog meat soup to something more poetic, like "soup of four seasons," or more in the spirit of the event, like "nutrition soup." Some dog meat restaurants even moved to back alleys, lest foreigners recoil in shock at the thought of their beloved pets being broiled or served with soup.

While we can understand restaurant owners' frustration to foreigners' reaction to a meat that for centuries has been part of our culinary tradition, the samplings seem to be a seriously misguided solution.

The JoongAng Ilbo's editorials have already asked the government to provide foreigners with clear information about and the background culture of Korea's dog-eating practices. That would help allay complaints.

For curious visitors, the association should publish guidebooks that list restaurants serving dog meat dishes. The association could also ask its members to provide free tastings for foreigners in their restaurants.

Culinary culture is not simply about taste. It is also about proper dining atmosphere, table settings and etiquette.

Street sampling parties would instead humiliate our culinary tradition, and serve only to incite the wrath of foreigners who view dogs strictly as pets.

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