Last week I learned about 복날 (bok-nal), better known as the “dog days of summer.” Looking at this we would assume that this just means that they are very hot days in the summer. But this literally was the day that Koreans, in the old days, ate 보신탕 with dog as the main ingredient. Being the patriarchial, male-dominant society Koreans believed that this soup would give strength and virility especially on days when you sweat a lot. However, according to Wiki dog meat was banned in 1986, but I heard you can still get this soup if you really want it. Maybe in the shops where you can buy the authentic-looking Louis Vuitton bags, they also have a 보신탕 restaurant. To put your mind at ease, I haven’t met many people who have even eaten this soup. I guess it is more of a joke because some of the first words you learn in Korean here are 게 (ke) 개(kae) which sound similarly but mean crab and dog, respectively. (Side note, I was told that the difference in pronunciation is that when you say dog, or 개, you should inflect your tone up. Thank you to the six-year old in my hasuk!).
While dog soup is rare in South Korea, what did I find on the Chosun Ilbo site today? Noneother than Kim Jong Il with his two dogs : a Shepard (I don’t know why they don’t call it a German Shepard) and a Shih tzu. To sum it up, he loved horseback riding since the 1990s but after falling off a horse he began to take an interest in dogs. In 2004 his mother passed away and left him her dog and so began his love for dogs. But now he spends nearly $1000 a year for each dog to pay for their annual checkup which includes medical equipment, shampoo, etc. fees. (Article: http://news.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2011/04/14/2011041400071.html?news_top)
Kim Jong Il’s dogs have it good, because last year in February 2010 dog meat prices were regulated by the government proving that dog meat is still regularly consumed in North Korea. It sells for 500 won per kilogram, which is about 50 cents. http://www.dailynk.com/english/read.php?cataId=nk01500&num=6006
However, just to assure you that Koreans love dogs, here is a picture of my boyfriend’s Jindo 진돗개. Do you know the story of the Jindo dog? If you have seen Richard Gere’s Hallmark remake of Hachiko and the Japanese Akita, this story might ring a bell. Jindo’s are believed to come from the same region and is listed as National Treasure 53. The story is that the master had passed away and the Jindo dog traveled over 300km to find his master not drinking or eating anything. Jindo’s are known for their incredible honing skills and loyalty. Also they are very sweet. If you teach them to eat Korean food, they will likely adapt to it. Jinjoo (the photo) loves 멸치 anchovies, 된장찌개 soybean paste stew mixed with her dog food. (Learn more about 진돗개: http://eng.jindo.go.kr/).