Kim Jong-un reportedly calls dogs “decadent” and a “tainted trend”
PYONGYANG, North Korea––Kim Jong-un, 36, ruling North Korea since 2011, has declared pet dogs a “decadent” luxury and a “tainted trend reflecting bourgeois ideology,” according to an August 17, 2020 report published in the English edition of the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo.
Founded in 1919, reaching 1.8 million readers daily, Chosun Ilbo is widely considered the most reliable source of news from inside North Korea.
Kim Jong-un is the third generation of his family to govern North Korea since 1948.
Wrote Chosun Ilbo reporter Kim Myong-song, “North Korea has launched a clampdown on the ownership of pet dogs among the Pyongyang elite as food supplies run short.
Appeasing public discontent over food scarcity
“Trumpeted as protecting the country against capitalist ‘decadence,’ the move appears aimed at appeasing increasing public discontent amid the dire economic situation.”
As much as 60% of the North Korean population of about 24 million people are believed to be suffering from severe regional food shortages, according to the United Nations, in a country perennially afflicted by famine.
Pork provides about 80% of the protein in the typical North Korean diet, according to available data, but African swine fever hit North Korea in May 2019, drastically reducing pig production. Recent flooding has now swamped North Korean rice paddies, while the arrival of the COVID-19 coronavirus has been declared a national emergency.
Dogs “sold to restaurants”
“According to a source,” Kim Myong-song continued, offering no identification of the source to avoid putting the person or persons at risk from the notoriously vindictive North Korean dictatorship, “Kim Jong-un issued a ban on pet ownership in July 2020.
“Authorities have identified households with pet dogs and are forcing them to give them up or forcefully confiscating them and putting them down,” Kim Myong-song wrote.
“Some of the dogs are sent to state-run zoos or sold to dog meat restaurants, the source added. Pet owners are ‘cursing Kim Jong-un behind his back,’ but there is little they can do, according to the source.”
Observed Kim Myong-song, “Animal rights are even lower on the [North Korean] regime’s agenda than human rights,” which practically do not exist.
“Ordinary people raise pigs”
Under the Stalinist brand of Communism that is the official ideology of North Korea, “Pet ownership was long considered western decadence,” Kim Myong-song explained, “but attitudes seem to have relaxed after the North hosted the World Festival of Youth & Students in 1989, and the Pyongyang elite started flaunting expensive lapdogs as status symbols.
“The source said, ‘Ordinary people raise pigs and livestock on their porches, but high-ranking officials and the wealthy own pet dogs, which stoked some resentment.’”
Pet dogs have been purged in North Korea from time to time before, typically as a show of force to quell displays of public discontent.
“One defector said these clampdowns are usually enforced without great enthusiasm, but seem to be more severe this time,” Kim Myong-song finished.
Kim Jong-un’s father was “fan of dog meat”
Whether Kim Jong-un is impounding pet dogs for his own personal consumption is unclear.
Kim Jong-un’s reclusive father, Kim Jong-il, was “said to be a fan of dog meat, and state media said he often offered advice on how dog meat dishes should be prepared,” Reuters food journalist Lee Jae-won reported in November 2008.
“Dog meat in South Korea is usually back-alley fare sold to middle-aged men,” Lee Jae-won specified. “In the North, dog meat has become a celebrated part of the culture served at its best dining halls to the few in the impoverished state who can afford it.
“Little is wasted”
In particular, Lee Jae-won mentioned, “The Pyongyang Sweet Meat Restaurant has become a popular spot among the North’s elite and visitors from the South. This restaurant near the Taedong River in central Pyongyang can accommodate more than 2,000 people a day and manager Pak Song-suk boasts all the meat comes from home-grown canine.
“In South Korea, boshin-tang, which translates as ‘health-preserving soup,’ is usually braised meat, stewed in a spicy broth and served with steamed rice. Marinated ribs, as found in North Korea, are rare,” Lee Jae-won detailed.
“In the North’s capital, the recipe calls for less spice, presumably to highlight the natural flavor of the ingredients, and a variety of cuts are served for a leisurely meal accompanied by rice wine. Defectors in the South say cuisine undergoes change in the North because there is less money for elaborate spices and ingredients. This means food is simpler in the North, the taste is lighter, and little is wasted.”
Kim Jong-un had uncle executed by dogs
Kim Jong-un previously figured in a gruesome dog story in January 2014, when the pro-Beijing government Chinese newspaper Wen Wei Po reported that, as the Straits Times of Singapore translated the story, “Kim Jong-un had his uncle torn apart by hungry dogs after deciding to execute him for treason. Kim Jong-un called his uncle a dog when he denounced him for treason in December 2013, and used dogs to execute him too.
“Political opponents in North Korea are normally executed by firing squad,” the Straits Times explained, but Kim Jong-un “had his 67-year-old uncle and former deputy leader stripped naked and placed in a cage with five of his aides. Some 120 dogs, which had been starved for three days, were put in with them and the six were torn to pieces over the course of an hour.”
The Wen Wei Po report also alleged that Kim Jong-un watched the execution with 300 aides until the six “were completely eaten up.”
Added the Straits Times, “Jang Song Thaek had served as a mentor to young leader in the year after he took control of the country in 2011.”
Guard dogs killed children of political prisoners
That account was followed a month later by testimony from former North Korean prison camp guard Ahn Myong-Chol to a United Nations inquiry that he had seen guard dogs killing children.
Wrote Nina Larson for Agence France Presse, “Ahn Myong-Chol, who worked as a prison camp guard for eight years until he fled North Korea in 1994,” eventually becoming a human rights activist on behalf of North Korean political prisoners, “recalls the day he saw three dogs get away from their handler and attack children coming back from the prison camp school.
“There were three dogs and they killed five children,” Ahn Myong-Chol told Larson through a translator. “They killed three of the children right away. The two other children were barely breathing and the guards buried them alive.”
The dogs were then rewarded with treats.
Dog-eating spread south after World War II
Liaoning province, just northeast of North Korea, is the northernmost part of China where dog-eating persists. Dog-eating was not common in either most of China or on the Korean peninsula before World War II, to the extent of not even being mentioned in western news reportage accessible at NewspaperArchive.com, though some of the same correspondents repeatedly exposed and denounced dog-eating by the Igarot tribal people in the Philippines.
Dog-eating appears to have spread south from China into the Koreas during famines that immediately followed World War II.
The official history of what is now called the “Moran Traditional Market,” the oldest, largest, and long the most notorious dog meat market in South Korea, until dog meat sales there were ended in 2016, holds it “began from a figure called Kim Chang-suk who came to South Korea, leaving her mother alone in Pyeongyang, North Korea.”
Bear bile farming also spread from North Korea
Confining bears to coffin-sized cages with their gall bladders tapped for frequent or even continuous bile extraction, for purported medicinal use, appears to have spread to China, Vietnam, and eventually Laos from North Vietnamese origins in the early 1980s.
Circa 1993-1994, there were believed to be about 2,500 bears on bile farms in North Korea. No more recent data about the practice in North Korea is available.