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National Assembly passes dog meat consumption ban

Assembly passes Itaewon re-investigation without ruling party lawmakers

By Jung Min-kyung

Published : Jan. 9, 2024 - 17:49

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A group of animal activists welcome the National Assembly's decision to pass a special bill banning dog meat consumption in western Seoul on Tuesday. (Yonhap) A group of animal activists welcome the National Assembly's decision to pass a special bill banning dog meat consumption in western Seoul on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

The National Assembly on Tuesday decided to completely root out the practice of butchering dogs for consumption by passing a special bill that punishes such activities.

The bill seeks to impose a fine of up to 30 million won ($22,800) or a maximum jail term of three years on dog farmers or butchers who are caught killing dogs for consumption. Those who are caught illegally farming, breeding and distributing dogs will face a maximum prison sentence of two years or a fine of up to 20 million won.

Dog farmers and restaurant owners will receive a three-year grace period to completely shut down their business. Law enforcement will then start imposing the punishment from the beginning of 2027.

They will be obligated to register their current businesses with the regional and city governments to help authorities keep track of the progress. Subsidies will be provided to aid them in switching jobs.

But customers who choose to consume dog meat will not be subject to punishment.

The bill will become law once President Yoon Suk Yeol and the Cabinet give their final approval.

Though the practice of consuming dogs has been discontinued by many Koreans -- especially among the younger generations -- recent government data showed that there were some 1,150 dog farms and 1,600 restaurants that serve dog meat here across the nation, as of November last year. Around 209 distributors and 34 butchering businesses remained active in the cited period as well.

A survey released Monday involving 2,000 Koreans aged 20 to 69 showed that 90 percent of respondents “had no intention of eating dog meat ever.” Some 94.5 percent of the respondents said they had not eaten dog in the past year, indicating that only a small portion of the population are fueling dog meat consumption. The survey was conducted by local animal rights group Animal Welfare Awareness, Research and Education.

A total of 208 lawmakers voted in favor of the bill with only 2 abstentions. The bill was a rare case in which the ruling People Power Party and main opposition Democratic Party of Korea were on the same page regarding its passage.

Banning dog meat consumption was one of Yoon’s presidential campaign pledges, with first lady Kim Keon Hee showing active support for the move.

Meanwhile, the National Assembly also passed a special bill that pushes for reinvestigation into the Itaewon crowd crush tragedy on Oct. 29, 2022, which claimed 159 lives. The bill was railroaded through by the main opposition and passed the opposition-led Assembly following the passage of the dog meat ban bill. All ruling party lawmakers boycotted the vote.

A set of bills establishing grounds for the launch of an independent space and aerospace agency passed as well.

However, a revote for two special investigation bills, one of which looks into stock manipulation allegations of the first lady, did not take place during Tuesday’s plenary session. The Democratic Party strongly opposed holding the revote on Tuesday, which the ruling party criticized as an attempt to exploit the issue as part of a long-term smear campaign ahead of April's parliamentary election.

The bills recently vetoed by Yoon were sent back to the National Assembly after the initial vote in December.