Moon Jae-in, the former President of South Korea, has been criticised for his decision to return to a government facility Gomi and Songgang, two white Pungsan dogs who were given to him by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as a gift following their 2018 summit. Daun, their puppy, will continue to live with Moon at his house in Yangsan, South Gyeongsang Province.

Patti Kim, head of Jindo Love Rescue, an animal rights group, told The Korea Times, “Mr Moon should not abandon the dogs or be forced to abandon them. As their guardian, it is his responsibility and privilege to care for their physical and emotional needs. A commitment to be an animal’s guardian is a commitment for life.”  Moon said the Ministry of the Interior and Safety has delayed approving an enforcement ordinance for him that would strengthen the legal basis for his right to keep the dogs (who are considered state property for being a gift given while in office) and provide him with the proposed financial support to keep them. 

The Korean animal rights group Beagle Rescue Network, said, “Regardless of the reasons, giving up adoption is giving up responsibility, which is the virtue of a leader who was once respected as the (South) Korean president. We are witnessing the leader giving up the responsibility for life due to political reasons. We implore you to end the era in which living creatures are being used for politics. Animals are not objects.”

It’s very sad to see these dogs treated as property, from the moment they were born when they were given as gifts when they were deemed state property, and now they are used as pawns of what appears to be a financial dispute. But they are no different than any pig treated as food or horse treated as a working machine. The speciesist system that commodifies sentient beings is universal, and we can see it manifested everywhere, from North Korea to the US. 

“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.