- The Washington Times - Monday, January 7, 2002

SEOUL An international campaign led by Brigitte Bardot to use this year's soccer World Cup to stop the eating of dogs in South Korea has provoked outrage in Asia.
A cross-party group of South Korean lawmakers has introduced a bill to legalize the sale and export of dog meat, in defiance of international pressure to curtail the custom before the start of the World Cup, which it is co-hosting, in May and June.
The legislation, which is expected to be passed next month, will pitch the authorities into a showdown with international soccer chiefs, who fear that a clash over Asian eating habits will become an unseemly sideshow during the World Cup.
Brigitte Bardot, the French actress turned animal rights activist, has led condemnation of Korean dog-eating, calling it "barbaric." Sepp Blatter, the head of soccer's governing body, FIFA, which fears that Korean dog eating could harm its showpiece competition, entered the fray when he urged South Korea to be sensitive to foreign feelings.
Keith Cooper, FIFA's director of communications, said Mr. Blatter had raised the matter only after the organization received thousands of calls and letters condemning the treatment of dogs in Korea.
"South Korea's subsequent response is entirely their own business," he said.
Kim Hong-shin, an opposition parliamentarian, said: "Foreign criticism of dog meat reflects lack of understanding of our nation's ancient culture. It is blasphemy, not criticism."
The legislative effort by 20 lawmakers from the ruling party and main opposition party proved enormously popular last week on the streets of Seoul. Support, not surprisingly, was strongest among patrons of the 6,000 restaurants that thrive on a mixture of dog stews, soups and satays washed down with alcoholic drinks flavored with pulverized cat.
The stench and the yelps of caged dogs may be stomach churning, but Lee Wha-jin happily slaps down dishes of dog-meat stew on the white plastic tabletops of his restaurant in the notorious Moran night market in Seoul.
At the rear of shop after shop, 8-month-old puppies considered to be the prime age for eating are packed into tiny cages welded together in rows three or four high. Customers choose which of the live animals they want.
The dog is then taken to the back of the shop, where a flimsy curtain or a swinging door obscures the sight, but not the sound, of a hideous death.
The animal is hung up by the neck and beaten to death in the belief that the dog's fear as it expires makes the meat especially tasty.
The sale and consumption of dog meat, third behind beef and pork in Korea, is technically illegal, but the authorities turn a blind eye to an industry that aficionados claim has been a part of Korean culture for more than 3,000 years. The bill is intended to legalize what has been a common practice.
A pro-dog meat lobby group accused "self-righteous" Europeans of hypocrisy in singling out dog-eating for opprobrium. "We in Korea do not understand the snail-eating, horse meat-eating Westerners," said the group in a statement.
When the World Cup opens in South Korea on May 31, foreign soccer fans who find themselves in Moran and other parts of Seoul will be offered a variety of dog dishes, including poshintang, the nation's favorite soup (which literally translates as "body preservation stew"), soo yuck (dog slices) and jin-guk (dog casserole).
A pound of dog meat can cost up to $5 in Seoul, making it one of the most expensive foods on the local market.
South Korean dog eaters, like their counterparts in China and Vietnam, where the dishes are also extremely popular, believe that the meat contains medicinal properties.

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