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Asia Minute: South Korea’s political dogfight

President Moon Jae-in touches a white Pungsan dog, named Gomi
South Korea Presidential Blue House
In this photo provided on Oct. 2018 by South Korea Presidential Blue House, then-South Korean President Moon Jae-in touches a white Pungsan dog, named Gomi, from North Korea, in Seoul, South Korea. (South Korea Presidential Blue House via AP)

It’s been a busy week for political news — mainly centering on Tuesday’s elections. But there’s one story of international politics that’s not necessarily front-page news in the United States — although it is a hot topic in South Korea.

When you’re a political leader, people often give you gifts.

Former South Korean President Moon Jae-in was given a pair of dogs by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un back in 2018.

As gifts to the president, the dogs were considered state property — but the law was changed this past spring so that gifts of animals or plants can be raised by former presidents.

When Moon Jae-in left office in May, he took the dogs home — along with one of their puppies.

Early this week, Moon’s office issued a statement saying the former president would no longer keep the older dogs because the administration of current president Yoon Suk-yeol is not paying for their care.

Aides put the cost of food, vet visits and other expenses at about $1,800 a month.

Yoon’s office says financial discussions are continuing — but meanwhile, the Office of Presidential Archives has been unsuccessful in searching for another state-owned facility that will accept the dogs.

Animal activists are blasting the former president for trying to give the dogs back to the government.

A group called the Beagle Rescue Network issued a statement saying “giving up adoption is giving up responsibility” — urging an end to “the era in which living creatures are being used for politics.”

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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