While the majority of South Koreans don’t routinely eat dog meat, the “right” to do so is still strongly felt. It is mostly eaten by older citizens in the misguided belief that it is beneficial for health, consumed either as a soup called “boshintang”—believed by some to invigorate the blood/boost energy—or as a tonic (gaesoju) sold in traditional medicine shops.
The industry is largely seasonal, with dog meat particularly popular during the summer months, especially during “boknal” days—often misleadingly referred to as a festival. The boknal days are not a single event, but the three hottest days between July and August according to the lunar calendar, when 70-80 percent of dog meat is consumed even by those who never eat it at any other time. Many farmers will have their dogs slaughtered just before boknal when they fetch the highest prices, meaning that the suffering of 2 million dogs every year is focused mainly (but not exclusively) on supplying demand for a soup consumed during just one month.
The belief that hot and peppery dog meat soup will reduce lethargy and revitalize one’s health during the summer is still strongly held in Korean society, so combating boknal is not a matter of “banning” a festival, but more about changing hearts and habits.