Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Eating dog in Korea

Into the animal rights maelstrom...

I held off in writing this post for a long time because I thought it might offend some people. It's something that I heard about before coming here and knew would come up sooner or later. Frankly, I thought I'd give it a try because of the cultural experience. Doing so went against my big love for dogs and eating dog goes against my upbringing as a Westerner, but I had to give it a try. My attitude in living here has been be a good sport and try new things. It's 

I had the opportunity at a teachers dinner and I went for it. There was one table with the dog meat and one table with pork or chicken (I forgot which). I took my place at the dog table to show that yes, I could handle it. The Korean teachers had been more than considerate in asking if I'd want to opt out because the knew the cultural differences at work, but I said no and took my place at the dog table with the other men and gave it a try. I knew that at any rate doing so would bolster my already excellent standing among the teachers for willingness to partake in Korean culture.

I ate dog grilled and as part of a soup. The grilled meat tasted like plain pork and the soup was merely okay. That's about it. I ate it to satisfy my curiosity and to be polite, but I mostly concentrated on the side dishes (and the soju) for that night. Dog didn't taste that good. Months later, that's all the mind remembers: the lack of defining taste.

Some things to bear in mind here:

Eating dog is not at all common here. As an American friend who's married to a Korean put it, "Dog eating was high during Korea's Great Depression but it has died out." This would make sense given how Korea was once quite an impoverished country.

There are indeed a couple restaurants that serve it, they're far from popular. Many of my students dislike dog meat and few, if any teachers actively go for it. Eating dog's a remnant from the past here. I've never seen any places that serve it in Seoul, Chuncheon, or Daejeon.

Yes, there is cruelty to dogs here. It's going away because of changing cultural attitudes to toward dogs.

*Finally, it seems that some people out there have a misconception about where meat comes in Korea. I've seen everything from "Watch out! Your beef may be from a dog" to "Be ready to eat dog every day" and the truth is, that is not true here. Most restaurants I've been in explain where their meats come from on the menus. Grocery stores label the kind and origin of meats just like they do in the States.
**Most beef eaten in restaurants or sold in grocery stores/butcher shops actually comes from the States or Australia. Korean beef (Han-u/Hanwoo) costs more.
***Pork's usually Korean or Australian

I thought of giving this post a clever title, but nothing came to mind. Sometimes what sounds boring works the best. I'll leave you with this:

Sacred cows may make the best hamburgers, but man's best friend doesn't warrant a second helping.

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