SEOUL – South Korean authorities have shut down Gupo dog meat market in Busan, notorious for being one of the country’s largest markets selling chilled dog meat as well as live dogs killed to order. More than 80 live but terrified dogs were rescued as part of a negotiated closure with the dog meat vendors who will be offered compensation to set up alternative businesses as part of a remodelling project to regenerate the area.
The dogs are now in the care of animal charities Humane Society International/Korea, Korean Animal Welfare Association, Korea Animal Rights Advocates and Busan Korean Alliance for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, who worked with the authorities to close Gupo market. Busan’s Mayor Geodon Oh and the Head of Gu office, Myung Hee Chung, worked together with the dog traders to find a solution.
The closure of Gupo is the latest in a series of crack downs by officials on the cruel trade. In November last year, Seongnam city demolished Taepyeong, the country’s largest dog slaughterhouse, and closed down most of the related dog meat vendors. However, the closure of Gupo market is the first such closure where complete agreement has been reached between the vendors and local authorities.
Photos and video of the dog market and slaughterhouse closure and rescue are available for download here: https://newsroom.humanesociety.org/fetcher/index.php?searchMerlin=1&searchBrightcove=1&submitted=1&mw=d&q=MarketRescue0719
Nara Kim, dog meat campaigner for Humane Society International/Korea (휴메인 소사이어티 인터내셔널) who attended the closure and rescue, says: “I cannot express enough my joy at helping to close down the dog meat shops and slaughterhouse at Gupo market. For decades they have stood as a very public symbol of the immense cruelty of the dog meat trade, with live dogs displayed in cages on the street for shoppers to select for slaughter by electrocution. The closure of Gupo’s dog meat market means the end of a gruesome era in South Korea’s dog meat history, and a sign of the times that law enforcement and local authorities are cracking down on this increasingly unpopular industry that most Koreans want nothing to do with. I know we have a long way to go to end the dog meat trade here, but even two years ago I would never have believed we would see such progress. It has been a pleasure to work with the Busan authorities, and especially in being able to save the last remaining dogs we found alive.”
At the height of business at Gupo in the 1970s and 1980s, the market housed around 60 dog meat shops but after the Seoul Olympic in 1988 it started to decrease. Just 17 dog meat vendors and two dog tonic (gaesoju) shops remained before today’s closure.
Humane Society International/Korea’s rescue team was on site to assist the closure and rescue with partners KARA, KAWA and Busan KAPCA. They found more than 80 mainly jindo mix dogs cowering in their cages, just a handful of the estimated 2 million dogs bred on thousands of dog meat farms across the country. HSI/Korea specialises in working with dog meat farmers to close down these farms and transition farmers to alternative, humane livelihoods. Increasingly, dog farmers are keen to exit the controversial trade due to societal shame, family pressure and decreasing profits.
HSI/Korea’s Nara Kim says: “The dog market scene was really upsetting, with dogs displayed in cages in front of each store. The smell was overwhelming. HSI has closed down 14 dog meat farms in South Korea and rescued nearly 1,800 dogs, all of whom would have ended up in a terrible place just like this. All the dogs at Gupo have been removed and transported to a temporary shelter where they will recover from their ordeal. A few will remain in Korea to find new homes, but HSI will fly all the others overseas to Canada or the United States to get the love and care they deserve before being placed with shelter and rescue partners who will seek adoptive homes.”
Kim Ae-ra, president of Busan Korean Alliance for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said: “We started anti-dog meat protests in front of Gupo dog meat market for the first time in 2007 and so we are deeply moved that the market will be the first complete shutdown of its kind in Korea.”
Yim Soonrye of Korea Animal Rights Advocates, said: “Dog slaughterhouses are collapsing one by one, from Seongnam Moran Market to Taepyeong-dong and Busan Gupo Market, and in addition Gyeonggi Province has introduced its own judicial polices to crack down on illegal dog slaughterhouses. This all shows that the Korean dog meat industry is starting to fall. As local governments are moving forward, the Korean government must also take action by closing all illegal dog farms, by the Blue House keeping its promise to exclude dogs from the legal definition of ‘livestock’, and by the National Assembly passing the proposed bill to end the dog meat industry before the end of next year’s session. We welcome the decision made by Busan Metropolitan City and the merchants of Gupo, and believe that the shutdown of Gupo dog market will be a major stepping stone towards ending dog meat in Korea.”
Cho Hee-kyung, president of Korean Animal Welfare Association, said: “The permanent shutdown of Gupo dog meat market is a long-awaited victory against animal cruelty in our campaign to end the dog meat trade in South Korea. We will now step forward to call for the shutdown of Chil-seong market, another large dog meat market in Daegu.”
- Dog meat consumption is declining rapidly in South Korea, particularly among younger generations. A survey by Gallup Korea conducted in June 2018 shows that 70% of South Koreans say they will not eat dog meat in future.
- Busan city has signed a closure contract with each dog meat vendor, contractually prevented from transitioning to other dog meat related businesses. The entire street of stores will be demolished.
- The regeneration plan is due for completion by 2020 and will culminate in the launch of a community park.
- Busan city veterinarians will give all the rescued dogs a health check, and further care and vaccinations will be performed by HSI and partnering local groups. Every dog will be tested for the presence of the H3N2 virus (dog flu), and vaccinated against rabies, DHPP, corona virus vaccines, distemper and parvo. The dogs will then be quarantined in Korea under the groups’ care before travel to Canada and the United States.
- The decision by the Busan authorities to close the dog market at Gupo is the result of lots of factors, not least years of protests by local residents and Korean animal groups including CARE, and Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation.