The cost of raising an elephant — and a dog

Home > National >

print dictionary print

The cost of raising an elephant — and a dog

The author is a cultural news team reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.

“There is nothing beneficial about elephants. One is being raised in my province, but the people in the province are only suffering. Please order the governors of Chungcheong and Gyeongsang provinces to also take turns raising them.”

This is a report by the Jeolla governor in the second year of King Sejong in 1420. The elephant in question was a gift sent by Japanese shogun Yoshimo Ashikaga two years earlier as a goodwill gesture. King Taejong, the father of King Sejong, had Saboksi — the institution in charge of the royal carriages and horses — raise the elephant. But when an accident occurred in which a person who was teasing the elephant was trampled to death and the feed cost became an issue, the elephant was eventually sent to an island in a Jeolla province.

No place welcomed the animal that was kicked out of the palace. As Jeolla did not welcome it, it was sent to Chungcheong. In the following year, the governor of Chungcheong also complained and suggested sending it to an island in the sea. King Sejong ordered the governor to find a place with good water and grass to send the elephant to and keep it from getting sick and dying. What happened to the elephant after that is unknown.

How much did it cost to raise an elephant at the time? According to the Chungcheong governor, the elephant needed “48 sacks of rice and 24 sacks of beans a year.” One sack of rice costs 5 nyang and a sack of beans costs 2.5 nyang. As one nyang is currently worth about 80,000 won ($58), it costs about 24 million won a year.

It is not a small expense, but nothing unaffordable by the government, either. But the perception of a “troublesome animal” seems to have determined the fate of the elephant six centuries ago.

The Pungsan dogs, gifts former president Moon Jae-in received from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un after a summit in 2018, led to a political debate. The former president who took the two dogs to his post-retirement home in South Gyeongsang has returned them to the government after the new Yoon Suk-yeol administration stopped providing Moon with the 2.5-million-won monthly expense to help him take care of the dogs. Rather than fighting over the tax controversy, how about sending them to a private home that can raise them with love?
Log in to Twitter or Facebook account to connect
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
help-image Social comment?
lock icon

To write comments, please log in to one of the accounts.

Standards Board Policy (0/250자)