When the Winter Olympics kick off on Friday, Feb. 9, in South Korea’s Pyeongchang county, international visitors will be, by all accounts, met with restaurant menus advertising dog meat.
Despite the government’s request to stop serving dog during the games, 10 of the 12 local restaurants offering the meat refused to desist. Even a promise of subsidies failed to persuade them.
“We’ve faced a lot of complaints from restaurant operators that we are threatening their livelihood,” said Pyeongchang County government official Lee Yong-bae, according to Channel News Asia.
“Some of them initially shifted to selling pork or things instead of dog meat only to find their sales plunging sharply. They then switched back to dog meat,” Lee said.
South Koreans eat an estimated 1 million-2.5 million dogs a year, believing the meat increases energy.
Seoul officially frowns upon the practice, classifying the meat as “detestable,” similar to snake meat. But it hasn’t gone as far as banning it.
The custom is waning with new generations, who many times keep dogs as pets. Korean President Moon Jae-in even adopted a dog saved from a meat farm.
Moreover, activists have used the Olympics as an opportunity to step up pressure on the government and persuade the public to ditch dog eating. They said the dogs are raised in bad conditions and killed cruelly by electrocution, smashing their head, and beating.
“This business will last for five years more at the most,” one dog meat shopkeeper told Hankyoreh news site last year.
Pyeongchang Organizing Committee for the Olympics issued the following statement to USA Today: “We are aware of the international concern around the consumption of dog meat in Korea. This is a matter which the government should address. We hope that this issue will not impact on the delivery or reputation of the games and the province and we will support the work of the province and government on this topic as needed. Also, dog meat will not be served at any games venue.”