- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 13, 2001

SEOUL (UPI) The head of South Korea's World Cup organizing committee yesterday complained that soccer's international governing body was unfairly criticizing the treatment of animals in his country, where dogs still are slaughtered for their meat.
Federation International de Football Association (FIFA) President Joseph S. Blatter recently called for South Korea to take "immediate and decisive measures to put an immediate end to the cruelty," saying it would harm South Korea's international image.
South Koreans have traditionally beaten the dogs with bats to soften their flesh before slaughtering them for food. But handlers say they now kill "meat dogs" swiftly with electronic shock.
"I have told FIFA that it should not raise concerns about that," said Chung Mong-joon, a FIFA vice president and the head of the Korean Organizing Committee for the 2002 FIFA Word Cup. "It is impossible to forcibly end people's dietary tradition due to a sports event."
South Korea is to co-host the 2002 FIFA soccer World Cup finals with Japan. The tournament opens in Seoul on May 31, and the final is June 30 in Yokohama, Japan.
Facing criticism from animal advocates, South Korea closed thousands of dog meat restaurants in the major cities during the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, but the ban was lifted after the Olympics because of consumer demand.
"The International Olympic Committee did not raise the issue of dog eating in this country during the Olympics. I don't understand why FIFA raised the issue," Mr. Chung said.
Mr. Chung has said the South Korean government was considering enacting a law to prevent mistreatment of animals and consumption of "unsightly" food, such as dogs and snakes.
A government official also said South Korea might crack down on the mistreatment of dogs during the World Cup soccer tournament.
"But it would be impossible to ban the sale of dog meat under Korea's tradition and custom," the official said, adding that no laws in the country ban the sale of dog meat.
Many South Koreans said the country's tradition should not be undermined by international pressure.
"It must be noted that pet dogs are seldom killed for human consumption, but there are normally specific breeds that are raised to produce meat," the Korea Herald newspaper said in an editorial.
"It must be acknowledged that this largely Asian custom, probably with its roots in early agrarian society, needs to be seen from a different perspective than the European or American perception of pet dogs," it said.
Ann Yong-geun, a professor at Chungcheong College, said, "The history that Koreans used dog meat as food was originated from such a long time ago that it cannot be dated back.
"Koreans have eaten dog meat more than anyone else."


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