North Korea’s “peace” dogs cause political strife in South Korea

Seoul, South Korea

A pair of dogs donated by North Korea are at the center of a political row in South Korea after the country’s former president said he was giving up on his successor’s lack of legal and financial support to care for the animals.

White Pungsan hunting dogs, Gomi and Songgang, were presented to South Korean President Moon Jae-in by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during the 2018 peace talks.

The dogs have lived with Moon ever since, even after Yoon Suk Yeol took over as president in May, although they are legally owned by the state.

On Monday, Moon’s office said in a statement that it was handing over the dogs to the Presidential Archives, accusing President Yoon of blocking a debate to give the former president a legal basis to keep them.

“Unlike the Presidential Archives and the Ministry of the Interior, the Presidential Office appears to be opposed to handing over custody of the Pungsan dogs to former President Moon,” Moon’s office said.

“If you look at the recent media, the Office of the President has no good will to solve this problem. Do they expect to blame the Moon? Or because they feel responsible for these pet animals? We are shocked to see the cunning of the current administration on display in such a small matter.”

The Ministry of Home Affairs and Security confirmed the government was in talks with Moon to provide 2.5 million won ($1,800) a month in subsidies for the animals.

President Yoon, who already has four dogs and three cats, denied that Moon had blocked keeping the dogs in a statement at his office on Monday, saying discussions between relevant ministries were ongoing.

“It is not true that former President Moon Jae-in tried to find a base to breed dogs in Pungsan, but the presidential office objected,” the statement said.

Dogs have historically been a symbol of thawing inter-Korean ties. In 2000, Kim Jong Il gave two Pungsan puppies – named Uri and Duri – to Kim Dae-jung. The South Korean leader returned the favor with two Jindo dogs named Peace and Reunion.