Kim Jong-un’s dogs end up at South Korean zoo after grooming causes string of costs | Kim Jong Un

A pair of dogs given by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un four years ago ended up in a South Korean zoo after a dispute over who should pay for the care of the animals.

Kim had gifted the pair of white Pungsan hounds – a breed native to North Korea – to then-South Korean President Moon Jae-in following their 2018 summit talks in Pyongyang.

But Moon gave up on the dogs last month, citing a lack of financial support for the dogs from the Conservative government led by Yoon Suk Yeol.

The dogs at a university animal hospital in Daegu, South Korea, in November 2022.
The dogs at a university veterinary clinic in Daegu, South Korea. Photo: YONHAP/EPA

The dogs, named Gomi and Songgang, were transferred to a zoo run by local officials in the southern city of Gwangju after a temporary stay at a veterinary hospital in the southeastern city of Daeju, zoo officials said.

In the presence of Gwangju Mayor Kang Gijung, the dogs were paraded Monday with their name tags around their necks while journalists and other visitors took photos.

“Gomi and Songgang are a symbol of peace and South-North Korean reconciliation and cooperation. We will raise them well like we cultivate a seed for peace,” Kang said, according to his office.

The dogs have a total of six offspring, all born after their arrival in South Korea. One of them named Byeol has been raised at Gwangju Zoo since 2019. The remaining five are in other zoos and a public facility in South Korea.

Gwangju Zoo officials said they would try to raise Byeol and her parent dogs together, although they are kept separate as they do not recognize each other.

Gomi and Songgang are officially state property and during his tenure Moon raised them in the President’s residence. After leaving office in May, Moon was able to bring them to his private home due to a change in the law that allowed presidential gifts to be managed outside of the presidential archives, if they were animals or plants.

But in early November, Moon’s office accused Yoon’s government of refusing to pay for the dogs’ food and veterinary care. Yoon’s office denied the allegation, saying it never stopped Moon from keeping the animals and discussions about providing financial support continue.

Gomi (left) and Songgang in a park in Gwangju, South Korea.
Gomi (left) and Songgang in a park in Gwangju, South Korea. Photo: Chun Jung-in/AP

Moon, an advocate of rapprochement with North Korea, has been credited with arranging the now-dormant diplomacy on North Korea’s nuclear program, but has also been criticized for his engagement policy allowing Kim to buy time and bolster his country’s nuclear capabilities in the face of international sanctions. Yoon has accused Moon’s engagement policy of being “subservient” to North Korea.

In 2000, Kim’s late father, Kim Jong-il, gave then-South Korean President Kim Dae-jung a gift of another pair of Pungsan dogs after a meeting in Pyongyang, the first inter-Korean summit since their partition in 1948. Kim Dae-jung, a liberal, gave Kim Jong-il two Jindo dogs – a breed native to a South Korean island. The North Korean dogs lived in a public zoo near Seoul before they died in 2013.

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