Saw this guy chained outside last week in Danyang. He's got his box of Nene Chicken and a ramyeon bowl of water. That's about as far on the sidewalk he could get. He barked quite a bit, though when I approached he slunk back under the fence.
Should come as no surprise to anyone here when I say that animals aren't treated very well in South Korea. It's well beyond my abilities to document the situation in its fullest, but you can browse the internet for information on the abuse of dogs, cats, and horses to your heart's discontent. Mokpo resident Ms. Parker wrote a piece on the treatment of cats in Korea for the March issue of Cat Fancy, but it doesn't seem to be available online. Maybe she can hook us up with an online exclusive.
Guard dog in Chungju, last week.
But seeing a few Jindos chained outside last week got me thinking. It's actually a common occurence, as any resident of Korea knows, to see dogs chained outside, usually with a chain too small to permit them to tread anywhere but in their own feces. More often then not, when I see a big dog chained outside, it's a Jindo. It got me thinking about the reverence these dogs are given among Koreans, at least in words and on paper. The dog was designated as Natural Monument no. 53 in 1962 "to protect the superior blood." The Cultural Heritage Administration page continues:
Jindo dogs of Jindo are under the legal protection of "The law for protection and raising of Jindo dogs", and "The law for preservation of cultural properties".
The Jindo is also celebrated for its intelligence and its loyalty. The Jindo County webpage tells us:
The Jindo Dog are much loved by many for its display of superior characteristics to the master. Such qualities are: loyalty, bravery, boldness, fastidiousness, hunting instincts, protectiveness, etc… It is our nations representative dog, also well known through out the world for living up to its reputations. If we examine the superior characteristcs, it can be arranged as the following
and it then proceeds to list, and elaborate awkwardly on: loyalty, returning home instinct, indomitable hunting instinct, not falling to strangers temptation, characteristic of fastidiousness, protectiveness, and bravery and courageousness. The Wikipedia page has more anecdotal evidence and has the feel of an article written by overseas Koreans. And fuck you if you think the Jindo actually comes from China or Mongolia
there are concerns of which the rumors, verbally passed down, is believed to be true by our people: that the ancestors of the Jindo Dog are the Mongol dogs or dogs from Song dynasty, China.
Considering these points, we wish to make clear that the Jindo Dog is our nations native dog as a result of document analysis and scientific research.
The Jindo county page actually spends considerable time making the point that the Jindo is, in fact, native to Korea. Thus the cultural importance many ascribe to the dog isn't that it's designated as a cultural property, but that it is considered to be something purely Korean. If you browse the various pages on the Jindo county site---this one in particular---you'll see that the designation is entirely based on preserving the dog's pure blood, and not necessarily the dogs themselves. Well, unless you actually eat a purebred Jindo, an act which will cost you tens of millions of won. Interestingly, the Cultural Heritage Administration page says that Jindo dogs came from China. Does this mean VANK will launch a civil war to stop the Korean government from distorting Korean history?
Anyway, this month there's been a lot of to-do about the need for preservation of Korean cultural properties: first after the destruction of Namdaemun, then subsequent articles about trees and something else that slipped my mind, damn it. My memory was jogged back to the plight of the dog's in a Daejeon animal shelter that will find themselves (most likely) euthanized unless they can be adopted. It was curious to note that, while people are throwing out all kind of hyperbole regarding the destruction of one cultural property, there is almost no noise about the destruction of another. Perhaps that's one angle to explore for those interested in cleaning up the dog abuse situation here, although I'll grant that there are other factors at work, and if change in Korea were as easy as pointing out facts and hypocracies, then most of us bloggers would be looking for new hobbies.
A pen of Jindos in Gangjin county, 2006.
Thinking about Jindo dogs the other day did remind me of a big "WTF?!?" story from 2006 about the poor treatment of Jindo dogs in the US. The article is titled "Chindo Dogs On American Death Row" and originally ran in the Korea Times and is now available here from Empas. Please read the thing in its entirety, but here's a little taste:
Revered by many Koreans, chindos marched proudly in the Seoul Olympics and were given as gifts to North Korea’s Kim Jong-Il by former South Korea president, Kim Dae-jung but, each year in the U.S. hundreds are either turned out, literally dumped, or given up by their owners, inviting certain death in ``kill’’ shelters where animals are quickly euthanized if new homes cannot be found.Um . . . holy fucking shit dude. It's quite remarkable---but not too surprising, I guess---that anyone in a Korean paper would have the gall to criticize another country for its treatment of dogs. It's an exaggeration to say that there are no dog lovers in Korea, or that only lapdogs are shown any sort of affection, but hell, it certainly seems at times that when dogs aren't beaten, chained, or abandoned, they're eaten. And let's remind ourselves who brought Jindos to the United States in the first place. Gangwon Notes also picked up the story back then.
For a dog the South Korean government recognizes worthy of being legislatively protected, that it faces lethal uncertainty in the U.S. is difficult to accept.
So great is the problem, chindo-enthusiasts there have formed rescue groups: Finding homes for the dogs and educating current and potential owners, shelter workers, veterinarians, animal-control officers, and the general public about the chindo and its seemingly unique character and traits, good and bad.
When chindos first arrived in the U.S. is unclear but since their arrival, initially centered around ``Koreatown’’ in Los Angeles, California, Ann Kim, a chindo owner since 1993, and an `unofficial’ authority on the dogs, suggests that as word of their presence spread throughout the migrant Korean communities, their fate was set on an unintended path of enforced self-destruction.
``Unfortunately, there was less emphasis on carefully and thoughtfully protecting and preserving this breed and more emphasis on making money and satisfying the demands of envious friends and relatives,’’ she said in an e-mail interview with the Korea Times. She added that: ``As a result, there was rampant, irresponsible breeding and considerable degeneration of the chindo.’’
Worth pointing out that the author of the above Korea Times piece is Chris Brockie, a New Zealander who apparently has a history of cranio-rectal inversion. The Marmot's Hole is on the case with "Another English Teacher Needs a Cup of STFU."