Hot dogs!Yu Jin-ah, 28, is madly in love with her two Chihuahuas, Dalnim and Byeolnim, whose names mean "moon" and "star" in Korean. Ms. Yu is employed in an office in Seoul and she works from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. most weekdays. In the evenings and on weekends, Ms. Yu spends most of her spare time with her two dogs. Her weekly routine includes grooming the pets, shopping for dog food and getting the two medical checkups. "I bought them with my first-ever bonus payment in 1999," she said. "It was one of the most exciting moments of my life." She spends about 200,000 won ($154) a month on her dogs.
Ms. Yu's boyfriend, Jeong Jin-hyuk, 32, also works in an office in Seoul. Like some Korean men, Mr. Jeong eats dog meat soup once or twice a year with his family - it has been a traditional summer activity of the Jeongs ever since Jin-hyuk was an elementary school student. Even Ms. Yu, with her love of her pets, thinks there is nothing bizarre about this, that it is an ordinary part of the lives of many males in Korea. "Jin-ah doesn't mind that I eat dog meat," Mr. Jeong said. "She knows that I would never ever eat pet dogs - who would eat a skinny little Chihuahua?"
The couple rarely quarrel, and certainly never about his eating dogs or her keeping dogs as pets. The couple are an example of how dog-eating and pet-loving Koreans can live harmoniously.
With a rapidly growing population of 2.5 million pet dogs in Korea, canine pets serve more than simply for sentry duty in a home or as a side course on a dinner table. Pets are at the center of consumer spending. And as more and more families raise pets, the pet industry has skyrocketed. Veterinary clinics, pet beauty shops and even pet hotels are already well-established. Fashion boutiques, hospitals, funeral homes, photo studios and cafes exclusively for pets are emerging in this growing market that stands at one trillion won ($752 billion) a year as of 2001, representing nearly 0.2 percent of the nation's economy. In comparison, the pet industry in Germany, long a country that reveres domesticated dogs and cats, accounts for 0.13 percent of the national economy.
According to the Korea Kennel Club, 15 percent of city households have pet dogs, and the number is increasing. Veterinary hospitals and pet beauty shops can now be found near many apartment complexes in major cities. As of late 2001, 2,600 veterinary hospitals were operating nationwide; the annual growth rate of such hospitals in Seoul has been more than 15 percent for several years.
A full-scale general hospital, offering all kinds of medical services for pets, opened in Samseong-dong, southern Seoul. Doctor Pet features 17 veterinarians and state-of-the-art medical equipment, including magnetic resonance imaging; the hospital is the first of its kind in Korea. At Doctor Pet, dogs can undergo almost every type of medical service, from cancer examinations to advanced surgery.
At Doctor Pet's dental clinic, dental implants for dogs are available. Implanting a tooth costs 1 million won and undergoing magnetic resonance imaging costs nearly 300,000 won. Because there is no medical insurance for pets - yet - the basic examination fee is more than 10,000 won. But the general hospital, which opened late last year, is rapidly growing; every week, its revenue hits a new high.
At the Pet Studio in Sinsa-dong, in Seoul's Gangnam district, pets can sit for portraits. The studio charges 80,000 won per photo per dog. Although the price is steep, the flow of patrons is steady. Many owners insist on having portraits of their dogs for special occasions, such as the dog's birthday. "So far, we have some devoted patrons," Kim Sang-tae, manager of the Pet Studio, said, "and the number of customers is rising steadily."
Pet cafes, where pet owners can bring along their canine friends while they sip espresso, have popped up all over Seoul and the surrounding suburbs. The cafes sell specially processed dog snacks and beverages, and provide day care service for working owners.
Fashion is perhaps the hottest item in the pet industry. In addition to fancy items such as lacy underwear, evening dresses and tuxedos for dogs, a big hit is the "couple look," matching an owner's clothes with his dog's. Lovely House in Apgujeong-dong, Seoul, and Chess on Mount Namsan carry luxury fashion goods for dogs - cashmere coats, for example. Another shop sells dog collars studded with pearls.
Major department stores and some selective shops sell luxury designer brand pet dresses; Burberry, Gucci and Prada recently brought the latest fashion items to Korea. Burberry's famous duffle coat for dogs costs about 300,000 won. Prada sells dog perfume. while Gucci carries velvet bed spreads for pets. Those preferring inexpensive and practical goods should visit malls such as Doosan Tower and Migliore in Dongdaemun Market.
And when Fido passes into the great kennel in the sky, you can also get funeral services him. Funeral homes selling burial chambers for dogs have recently opened. Luxury caskets for dogs cost more than 300,000 won.
For those families who want to try out a dog before deciding to buy or adopt one, some pet shops offer rental services for reasonable prices, between 7,000 and 10,000 won per day. Rental stores say weekends and vacations are extra-busy times. "Families with babies or people who lack experience with pets often rent our puppies to give it a try," said Yu Min-sook, owner of a rental pet center. "Many people have decided to keep a puppy after spending a weekend with the pet."
While the pet industry in Korea booms, dog-meat restaurants are on the decline, said Ann Yong-Geun, professor of food and nutrition at Chungcheong College. Because the Korea Food and Drug Administration does not recognize dog meet as a food product, there are no regulations governing restaurants serving dog-meat dishes and the government has no statistics on the size of the market. Approximately 4,000 dog-meat restaurants appear in the Seoul telephone directory, and the number of such restaurants might be 10,000 nationwide, according to Mr. Ahn. Mr. Ahn said Koreans consume about 1 million dogs a year, worth $200 million.
For strays, it's no longer cold out there
By Lee Hyun-sang
The Korea Animal Protection Society (http://www.koreananimals.or.kr) is the resting place of homeless animals. The office of the animal protection society is on the top floor of a four-story building in Daegu. Four hundred animals, including cats, raccoons and dogs, are housed in the small office.
Geum Seon-ran, 56, is the chairwoman of the society. Ms. Geum used to be an ordinary housewife when she first rescued a small kitten dying in a ditch near her house 20 years ago. Since then, she has become a fighter in the animal protection movement.
In 1991, Ms. Geum established the organization to protect homeless animals. She led the movement to enact the Animal Protection Act and actively participated in campaigns for the prevention of cruelty to animals.
Her lonely fight to protect homeless animals was never easy. At first, her husband, Cho Cheung-cha, a 58-year-old pharmacist, could not understand why his wife was "crazy" about homeless animals. The couple almost divorced years ago, but now they truly understand each other. Mr. Cho has become a steadfast supporter of his wife's work.
Rx for illness: Spend 2 hours with Spot
By Cho Min-geun
For the first time in Korea, patients suffering from mental illnesses such as autism can receive a special treatment developed by the Everland Research Center for Pet Dogs. The center was established in 1992 by the Samsung group and has programs that allow patients to live with dogs trained to alleviate their illnesses.
The center’s special treatment team and its curative dogs have toured five medical institutions, including the Seoul National Mental Hospital, for six years. Each of the dogs has a specialty such as dancing and playing with a ball. While hanging out with the dogs, the condition of the patient improves gradually and naturally, the treatment team explained.
An elementary school student suffering from anthropophobia had to drop out of school, the research center said. The young patient lived with one of the center’s specially trained dogs for six months and Eventually was able to return to school.
“One cannot say that just being with the dogs will completely cure all mental illnesses,” said Kim Se-ho, a manager of the center. “However, the program has proven to be highly efficient to significant numbers of patients when used along with other treatments.”
by Ser Myo-ja