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Eating Dog Meat in South Korea? Really?

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Eating Dog Meat in South Korea? Really?

Officially it was prohibited by the government in 1988, but dog meat is still served in many Seoul's restaurants.

«Really? Dog meat?»

It’s inevitable that, once you become on familiar terms with a Korean, you’re going to gather up the courage and ask the question, with a mix of something between horror and curiosity: is it really true that you eat dogs? And the answer is simple, and probably not what you hoped to hear: yes. Despite the fact that there are increasingly more and more young Koreans that refuse to join this custom and even are fighting to eliminate it, in South Korea there are still many restaurants (at least 6 thousand – about 500 of which are in the capital city of Seoul), where dog meat is served regularly.

There’s even a certain pride about it, even though it was never a dish found at a royal banquet, but has always been considered a culinary practice among the poorer classes. But it’s not hard to find an explanation, one just has to look at the practice with a certain cultural detachment.

For a rural family, having a cow was an incredible source of wealth and value for working the land, and dogs represented the only kind of readily available meat. Officially it was prohibited by the government around the time of the 1988 Seoul Olympics, because it put the country in a bad light, today dog meat is no longer sold in supermarkets and it’s rare that someone will serve it at home. While restaurants that want to have dog meat on their menus have to go through illicit channels, dog meat is still, statistically speaking, the fourth most commonly consumed meat in the country.

There are two main ways to serve it: as a gaegogi suyuk, or rather, a kind of steak that is apparently popular among the elderly because it supposedly increases virility. And the bosintang, a meat soup that traditionally is eaten in three specific days of the summer (at the beginning, at mid-summer, and at the end of the “Sambok” (which means, dog days), to help combat the heat.

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