Why do these girls look so unhappy?

August 7, 2006

Because they are watching this.

Just a few words on the topic. While Korea certainly sits at the top of list among targets for jokes about dog-eating, in fact, dog is eaten in many countries, including Switzerland. That this fact is very rarely acknowledged seems to be an indication that such jokes are definitely tinged with a rather racist connotation.

As a vegetarian, I’m located well outside of the common tit-for-tat debate between Westerners who decry the use of dogs for meat in Asia, and the Asians who decry the hypocrisy of Westerners who eat, among other things, cows, an animal considered sacred by some. The more nuanced argument focuses particularly on the inhumane methods of slaughter, the details of which I will leave to your own imagination (or google searching skills).

I obviously decry it all, but never to anyone’s face, unless they ask directly. Indeed, I do notice that Korean men who want to be macho (and even some of their expatriate macho male counterparts) and somewhat threatening will try to coax me into proclaiming my disgust at the “barbaric” practice of eating dog. The worst of these will take some sick pride in the how tough they are to not care one whit how the dogs are treated. Seeing the trap they set for me, I play right back and say “All you meat eaters are barbarians – cows, dogs, whatever – I don’t eat my friends and because of this, I’m much healthier than you and thus, you could never catch me” and then proceed to run away before Mr. Kim smacks me in my smart mouth.

Actually, not that many Koreans eat dogmeat, and many Koreans show active disdain for the practice. They reject the common argument that it is a traditional dish and note that the practice only began in the post-war years when meat was scarce, and then picked up in the 80’s when breeders saw a means to make a profit by highlighting the supposedly “potent” qualities of the dish – which was euphemistically labelled bosin-tang “invigorating soup” or yeongyang-tang “nutritious soup.” This use of euphemisms, uncommon among the normally straight forward descriptive terms for korean food (e.g. Kalbi-tang “rib soup”) seems to be pretty good evidence that this is indeed the product of modern marketing.

Another argument is that only dogs bred specifically for the purpose are used as meat. Again, my own experience seems to indicate otherwise. In my most recent trip to Korea, as I was running along a river bank, notable on the cement embankments were spray painted stenciled ads that said, “We buy dogs” followed by a personal cell phone number. Combine this with well know news accounts of stolen dogs as well as many personal stories related to me by my own past students who had their own pets cooked from beneath their noses by fathers eager to “make a man out of their boys” and I think this argument falls apart as well.

Nevertheless, it is impossible to deny that dog eating is part of the culture and something that at its most basic level should really be cause for neither pride nor shame. Unless Westerners are ready to bow to Hindu demands to give up beef, I don’t think they have a leg to stand on in this fight. Even vegetarians are rather biased to focus unduly on Korea when other nations eat higher levels of meat, albeit of other species. Still, I wish more Koreans would be more willing to address the hideous conditions of the conditions in which dogs are slaughtered, and thus I am very supportive of the actions of this perfomance troupe in the story I posted above. In other words, I think this is a problem best addressed amongst Koreans and that such debate is indeed taking place.



  1. It’s possible that the dog-eating connotations come from the US’s occupation in Korea. I know that dog is eaten elsewhere, and is fairly commonplace, as do you, but the word came to the US most likely from servicemen/women who have spent time over there.

    Just an idea.

    Take care, Matty!

  2. thanks for the comments! anyone hungry now? 😆

  3. Goodness!!!

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