As South Korea increasingly embraces the idea of dogs as treasured companions and pets, negative attitudes against the consumption of dogs have risen. According to Korean Animal Rights Advocates, an organization dedicated to combating animal cruelty, restaurants serving dog meat have reported declines in consumption of over 46 percent in the past four years. Although various landmark moments of the demise of South Korea’s dog meat industry have paved the path to outlawing the consumption of canines as a whole, the resulting overflow of dogs in shelters remains overlooked.
Coexistence of Animal Rights on Earth (CARE) is a non-profit organization on the forefront of recent campaigns against the slaughter of dogs for consumption. This organization concerns itself with rescuing dogs from farms and slaughterhouses and has inspired as many as 23,000 members to join their cause with its “100 percent no kill” policy. It is one of the largest and best-funded animal rights groups in Korea, annually receiving $1.7 million in private donations. However, a senior manager of CARE recently came forward to the Korean Center for Investigative Journalism with disturbing allegations against chief executive Park So-Yeon. Park allegedly ordered the needless euthanization of over 230 dogs over the last three years, which was carried out in secrecy for fear of activist backlash.
Park, previously hailed as the “queen of rescues,” claims euthanasia was inevitable and that only terminally ill and severely aggressive dogs that were unresponsive to treatment were put down, attributed to The Korean Times. Yet only 10 percent of the euthanized dogs had incurable diseases. On the other hand, many were seemingly killed due to their large size; Park ordered the euthanization of dogs allegedly because shelters lacked space, and to produce more revenue for the organization.
Using funds for administering euthanasia and accepting such donations to begin with is inherently impermissible, especially considering CARE would not have received donations if donors knew helpless dogs were being imprudently euthanized. Although the number of citizens calling for Park’s resignation and legal action continues to increase—there are currently 15 petitions against Park on the official blue house website and dozens of CARE employees have gone on strike—Park has made it clear that she does not intend to resign.
Though failing to inform the public due to potential backlash does not excuse Park’s allegedly indiscriminate behavior and questionable actions, it is important to acknowledge that top CARE executives who were aware of and/or involved in the euthanasia are equally at fault. They not only assisted Park but also did not come forward earlier. Moreover, both Park and CARE executives must be held legally accountable through proper investigation, as inaction on the part of the government validates their behavior. In order to prevent and uncover atrocities that are similar, it is necessary for the South Korean government to put time and resources into proper monitoring and evaluation of non-profit organizations’ activities.