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Korea’s plan to expand puppy mill industry upsets animal activists

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James Hyams
Written by James Hyams
This is the first of a series of articles on the puppy mill trade in South Korea. The next article will expose the breadth and scale of the international teacup puppy trade, which originates in South Korea, and its links with the finance industry. 

Animal activists are outraged about the Korean government’s plan to expand the puppy and pet trade in a bid to boost the economy.

President Park Geun-hye said at the 10th official trade and investment meeting on July 4 that stripping red tape from the pet industry will encourage investment and make the pet industry grow more than three times by 2020.

Under the plan, the government will provide financial incentives to those who open new puppy mills or those who upgrade their facilities to meet its new guidelines.

The plan also includes licensing auction facilities to sell pets and allow registered pet stores to sell animals online.

AJ Garcia, president of the Coexistence of Animal Rights on Earth (CARE), said the entire animal welfare community in Korea feels backstabbed by the government, which invited them to the national assembly three times over the past few months to discuss puppy mills and ways of reducing cruelty in the pet industry.

Meeting between government and animal welfare groups at the National Assembly in Seoul. Photo: James Hyams

We really thought that puppy mill’s would be banned,” Garcia said.

“If not banned, there would be a lot more regulation. That’s what we were led to believe. We had the public on our side and wanted to use this momentum to discuss cruelty in the dog meat industry. So, everyone’s just as upset.”

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There has been a growing call from animal activists and the public for the government to regulate the pet industry after a recent documentary exposed the severe cruelty involved in some puppy mills.

The documentary exposes the practice of prematurely delivering puppies via C-section – a method often used to ensure puppies are born as miniature “cup-size” dogs.

Animal welfare groups claim these premature C-sections are an industry standard often performed by unqualified people without aesthetics.

Most pet breeds in stores in Korea appear substantially smaller than they are in Australia, the U.S., and England with cup-size dogs in high demand.

It is an open secret that puppy mills intentionally malnourish puppies because of high demands of cup-size dogs.

Garcia, president of CARE, says that the government’s plan reveals their complete disregard for animal welfare.

“Any human being that watches footage from that expose and just watches those animals suffer – animals being artificially inseminated, spending their whole lives basically impregnated, giving birth, then impregnated, giving birth, stuck in a cage, 5-6 dogs in a cage in a tiny room – anyone who sees that, any human being with feelings knows that is wrong,” Garcia said.

The government said it will make a health checkup by a registered vet mandatory at licensed pet auction houses to end premature birthing of puppies and cruelty but activists seem to have little faith in the government.

There is already the animal welfare law which criminalizes the mistreatment of animals but arrests are extremely uncommon despite the cruelty being openly practiced.

The Korean judicial system also fails to meet community expectations when sentencing those who violate animal welfare regulations.

When a man was charged of killing 600 cats by boiling them alive, many activists expected him to receive a prison sentence. But he only got a 10 month suspended sentence and 80 hours community service.

CARE provided film evidence to police of a dog farm in Gwanjoo where dozens of dogs killed each other and the farmer left the dog carcasses in the cages to rot or be eaten.

CARE's investigation of a dog farm reveals several dead dogs left to be eaten and rot.

CARE’s investigation of a dog farm reveals several dead dogs left to be eaten and rot.

The farmer was slapped with a fine of 250,000 won – hardly a deterrent from repeating the cruelty.

The government said fines will be increased for unregistered or abusive breeding facilities and penalties for abandoning pets will also be increased threefold to 3 million won.

However, activists are concerned with the lack of law enforcement at present.

The government’s own figures given to Reuters suggest that more than 80 percent of the 1,000 dog breeders are operating illegally.

There are already many pet stores selling puppies online.

An online pet store owner said pet shop owners support the government’s plan.

“It is important to remember that it takes a long time for a proposed bill to pass in parliament. But we would support such a bill because we also want to sell healthy and adorable puppies,” they said.

The lack of regulation in the past and the desire to expand the pet industry makes Lee Joong-ho, an animal activist, concerned.

“So far, the government has done absolutely nothing to regulate the industry,” Lee Joong-ho said.

“I am skeptical that the government will be able to regulate the industry after approving the online sale of dogs. I think the situation will only get worse.”

Government figures show that 82,000 pets were abandoned or lost in South Korea in 2015. More pets logically means more abandoned animals despite the plan to increase the fine for abandoning pets. Many animal welfare groups, including Dasom, have been calling for the online sales of pets to be banned for years.

“First of all, sales of puppies should be banned, not to mention online sales of pet dogs,” said Seo Sun-il, the head of Dasom.

Lee Ji-sook, the government official in charge of animal welfare, told The Korea Observer exclusively that they would proceed with the government’s plan despite the public criticism.

“It will be unlikely for us to change what we have already outlined,” she said.

“Given that we have already reported our plans to the President, it would be too late to make drastic changes.

However, we will seek ways to better improve animal welfare without having to make major adjustments.”

She added that details of the government’s plans will be made available in October this year along with a draft bill.

A positive side to the plan is that the government will have a list of puppy mills, pet retailers, and pet cafes if they get licensed.

The government expects proposed law amendments will grow the pet industry annual revenue from 1.8 trillion won ($1.56 billion) in 2015 to 5.8 trillion won by 2020.

About the author

James Hyams

James Hyams

James Hyams juggles several careers including being a journalist and a social worker. James has an avid interest in 'telling it as it is', exposing matters of public interest, and reviving investigative journalism in the new digital era. Testimony to this is his thesis titled: “U.S. Government secrecy and the withering watchdog: Is WikiLeaks the answer?”

  • JMS

    Why is this moron still writing for anything.

    • Sheri Verges

      Truth hurts doesn’t it JMS…..shame on Korea!!!! Still in the dark ages!!!! If you support dog meat consumption you are a heartless, sub human who is an embarrassment to the human race!!!!

      • JMS

        Are you a moron as well? They are talking about puppy mills and selling them as pets not eating them. Go back under your rock you ignorant fool.

        • Sheri Verges

          YOU are the moron….and that’s a compliment for you!!! Are you absolutely stupid enough to think some of those dogs won’t make it to someone’s dinner table. GO JUMP IN A POT OF BOILING WATER IMBECILE!!!!! Puppy mills will just put more dogs out there in harms way for idiots like you to eat. Add more unwanted to dogs to the equation.

          • Marguerite White

            Good for you Sheri Verges,I hate the way some people think they can talk to someone through the internet.

  • CK

    So sad to hear although, doesn’t surprise me as Park Geun-hye is also behind the sex trade. She is without a doubt, an embarrassment to Korea. Change is needed. All millennials detest her …as in CURSE.

  • Tina Jelitto Overgaard

    This is horrible news. It would not surprise me to see some protests happen in response. President Park Guen-hye has made South Korea a shameful country. I hope the citizens of South Korea speak out against her. They have the support of many around the world.

  • Ewa Perczak

    it’s awfull ! I see that only the money is important !! this country should be ashamed !!! I hope that the citizens are going to speak and protest against this shameful decision !!!

    • Khaled Bin Muhammad

      i wouldent hold my breath, thay probably eat dogs.

  • louis gauci

    Money talks as ever! Shame on the government. It has no respect to animals

  • Inseok Chun

    Unbelievable! Instead of moving forward Korea is moving backward. Anything for money. Is this what Korea is all about? Shame on President Park Geun-Hye and her government. Shame on their citizens for not demanding better.

  • Baba

    I’m very disgusting about Korea . 2016 and still like the middle age like 1700 . …….

  • Rita Badie Ceresini

    It’s always about money… Anywhere and everywhere!!!

  • Jan Jorczak

    Basically, there is NO HUMANE TREATMENT of animals in Asia. S Korea is one of the worse. The dog butchers laugh while they torture dogs. They make me vomit. I hate them. I have no use for the people of Korea as they claim that most are against the dog meat trade, but no one helps Nami Kim to save the dogs and bring the dog meat industry to their knees. Now their going to expand puppy mills and cut premature babies out of females so they can sell teacup sizes. What a freekin sick perverted society. Poor poor suffering dogs

    • Xman2014

      If you hate Koreans, go and kill one.

  • Vera Wirianta Yates

    This is sickening. Korea need to stop their animal cruelty! Puppy mill is bad idea and will only promote cruelty & inhumane treatment of dogs. Shame on Korea government!!

  • Jan Jorczak

    I take exception to Nami Kim and her rescue team, Marc Chang and any other Koreans working to end the suffering of dogs and cats in Korea. Theirs is an uphill battle and it takes tremendous stamina in the face of adversity. They have my utmost respect and admiration.

  • HUSKY DOG

    They are nothing but a bunch of scum bag pigs. you savages have no regard for life. you are a bunch of filthy uneducated savages. shame on you all especially your mental president park geun-hye who I would love to string up by her tits.

  • Cecelia Tiemann

    This is horrific news. What a nightmare! HUMANS THAT ARE KIND MUST SPEAK UP. Stop the atrocities to these innocent beings!

  • Lisbeth Svensson

    Why are so many asians so cruel? How come? Is there anyone who have some theories?

  • karen

    the world is watching and seeing south korea as it is: it supports animal abuse and killings. so shameful. being part korean descent. i am embarrassed and ashamed!

  • Steve Kovacs

    Westerners must also promote organization of animal welfare groups there and education on healthier dietary options whether vegan or humane farms such as poultry or fish.
    The Gov’t there must be compelled by the UN and all Western countries to tie trade to creation and adherence of animal welfare laws with real and enforced punishment for non-compliance.
    We must use tough love to get Korea and other Asian countries to take their one foot locked in medieval and barbaric superstition and join the enlightened world of compassion and accountability.

    • mongibello

      Easier said than done.

  • Darla Hill

    these people have crossed way over the line and they need to stop their inhumane evil selves from using and abusing and or killing animals inhumanely,its themselves that do not matter ,not the animals! please cut all ties with these sick human trash!

  • smithington

    aren’t we still waiting for an update on all that money you begged for last year? wasn’t it around $26k? Whatever happened to that? Wasn’t there going to be some big dog meat documentary? or did someone just upgrade their computer and wardrobe?

  • ziggypop

    appalling!!! This is the end of me every buying anything Korea again. Terrible people.

  • Ria

    I have only one thing to say : Stop messing around with the animals. What the heck! Leave the animals alone. Go do something else with your lives – millions of other things to do to improve human existence/ Stop messing around with animals. You are grown men and women. Put aside the animal toys and grow up.

  • Ria

    Further more, if you do want to mess around with toys, why not make your own human babies into tea cup babies? Why not baby mills? You can sell them online. You can farm them. You can torture and eat them. You can cage them and starve them so that one eats the other. You can live the dead one’s body to rot in the same cage. Grow up – stop playing with the animal toys.

  • Ria

    Money Money Money, The government expects proposed law amendments will grow the pet
    industry annual revenue from 1.8 trillion won ($1.56 billion) in 2015 to
    5.8 trillion won by 2020.- but then, why should Korea be any different than the derelicts who exploit animals in the US pet industry. We are just a little bit morally superior than the Koreans, Chinese, Indians.

  • Lorraine Foley

    From Lorraine Foley – London. I have just read an article that tried to persuade the reader that dog butchers would not spend time in stringing dogs up and torturing them etc. Well, us Westerners, only have to look on You Tube and many other sites which do graphically show dogs being cruelly tortured – boiled, blowtorched, hit and beaten, strung up etc etc. Please don’t try to pull the wool over our eyes, we do know what goes on as there is so much real graphic evidence to show it all. And also, you cannot defend yourselves by saying foreigners intervene with your cultural activities. YOU CANNOT HIDE ANIMAL CRUELTY AND EXTREME TORTURE TO ANOTHER LIVING BEING UNDER THE GUISE OF “CULTURE” !!! People are not that stupid – we know what culture is and we know what cruelty is. If you want to call it culture then that makes your ways and beliefs disturbing, as you are pledging to the world that animal cruelty, torture and extreme pain is a way of life for you, its your culture.
    Also, the Korean Government is offering incentives to expand breeding of tiny puppies – this is open to a huge amount of corruption and will make greedy money grabbing animal abusers rub their dirty hands together. Female dogs to be malnourished with the hope that tiny undeveloped puppies are produced. Look, we already have too many dogs in this world, when will we ever realise that animals are not just here for us to make a quick buck? Korea already has millions of eyes scrutinising its treatment of dogs and now this, its a sham, a complete lack of fore-thought by the Government. Its something that should be cracked down on, quashed, stopped, … not promoted, its just another problem for charities and activists to expose and take videos of. I am expecting videos of tiny underdeveloped puppies dying slowly or female mother dogs thin and boney being kept in poor conditions. Lets see how this will be exposed. Oh dear, its like watching children run a bar, its all pretty clueless – sorry but its the truth.

  • Donna

    Stop them dammit ! Destroy these people if you must just stop them

  • Jim Roberts

    I can’t say I’m surprised. Korean officials have always proven to be completely indifferent to the suffering of animals. They do not enforce the ridicously inadequate animal welfare laws that already exist nor do they care about inacting any additional laws that would help to end the horrific suffering of animals. They are inept, uneducated and vile excuses for “leadership.” Instead of moving their culture forward in a progressive manner, they continue to prove they are barbaric cowards who are impotent in making any positive change.

  • Luke

    So, instead of using its heavy-handedness to force Korean electronics manufacturers to build a world’s-best supercomputer, or its automobile manufacturers a world-class Formula One team or energize the country’s aftermarket tuners, or its construction industry to more environmentally-friendly methods, or its central bank to allow the won to strengthen and stimulate domestic consumption, the Park Geun-hye administration is using animal cruelty to stimulate the national economy.

    If any historical justice is to be served, PGH’s administration will be remembered as the worst in the post-democratization era.

  • Tami Sedakow

    WHAT KIND OF PEOPLE WOULD DO THIS? THIS IS FUCKED UP!

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