[FORUM]The people want a good dog

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[FORUM]The people want a good dog

I once heard a foreigner harshly criticize the Jindo dog, the Korean breed in which our country takes considerable pride. His criticism was that a Jindo dog behaves as it likes.
He said a Jindo dog will attack a stranger without being ordered to by its owner. This is not the behavior of a good dog, he said, but a ferocious one.
His resentment came from personal experience. During a visit he once made to a farm in Gangwon province, he tripped and fell, and was taken by surprise by a Jindo dog that dashed toward him from behind a tree. This episode might have ended in disaster had it not been for the dog’s owner, who appeared immediately and shouted at it to stop.
I asked the foreigner how a German shepherd, for instance, might have behaved in such a situation. He replied that a German shepherd would have barked at him, but wouldn’t have attacked without an order. A fine dog, he said, does not attack without being ordered to do so by the owner.
A dog trainer I spoke with partially agreed with this point of view. When he trains a Jindo dog, he said, sometimes the unexpected will occur. For a while, the dog is preoccupied with obeying orders, but then it starts to do things according to its own judgment.
The dog is intelligent enough to handle a given situation on its own before the trainer gives an order, so it takes longer to train it to stick to its owner’s instructions. But a German shepherd is easily tamed, because it concentrates only on the trainer’s orders.
For more than a decade, we in Korea have been following the complicated procedures that are required to register the Jindo dog as an internationally recognized breed. Although people poured derision on our country, asking what kind of fine breeds could possibly come from a country where the people eat dog meat, pet lovers around the world began to understand that Korea has had a pet-loving culture for a long time.
After years of going through this exacting process, supporters of the Jindo dog finally got it provisionally accepted as a registered breed by the World Canine Organization about a year ago. The approval process is currently in its final stage.
The organization still needs to ensure that no problems will arise with various dog organizations when it comes to managing pedigrees and observing the various regulations that are involved in maintaining a registered breed. It is very difficult to meet the international standards for dog breeding.
One shortcoming of the Jindo dog that has arisen in the course of this process is the behavior that my foreign acquaintance described ― its tendency to use its own judgment before receiving an order from its owner.
Final responsibility for such behavior will eventually lie with the individual owner, of course. But the essential problem is that the Jindo dog doesn’t care much about orders, particularly before it is trained. The same is true with other dogs that are indigenous to Korea.
From the prehistoric era to the present day, the close relationships between dogs and people have been depicted in countless legends and anecdotes. Examples of the faithfulness and patience of good, loyal dogs are to be found throughout literature and the fine arts.
In many cases, hunting dogs and even pets have been bred to develop specific abilities. I wonder to what degree indigenous dogs are affected by the regions they come from.
Clearly, “good dogs” have genes that are particularly useful to man. For these dogs, there is no such thing as betrayal or rebellion, only loyalty. Some politicians, declaring themselves to be servants of the people, have pledged that they would be like faithful dogs. This comparison is unfair to dogs.
Watching the behavior of politicians who talk big without knowing much about the world, it is clear that they are not the people’s faithful dogs, but ferocious ones. Everyone avoids them, for fear of being bitten. They themselves seem to be unaware of which dogs are loyal and which are fierce.
As time has passed, the meaning of “faithful dog” has changed entirely ― as when, nowadays, the term is used to describe someone who behaves like a sycophant toward some powerful politician.
That is the connotation that is intended when the Western media describe the relationship of British Prime Minister Tony Blair or Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi toward U.S. President George W. Bush.
In our country, the number of politicians who are ignorant combatants is increasing. These politicians ignore international standards of conduct in the name of becoming good dogs. But what the people would really like to see are politicians who are like faithful dogs ― dogs that understand the people’s hearts and minds, and guide us down the path that we should follow.

* The writer is the editor in chief of the monthly publication NEXT. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Choi Chul-joo
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