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Kim Jong-un’s dogs end up at South Korean zoo after dispute over custody fees | Kim Jong Un

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

Kim had given the two white Pungsan hunting dogs – a breed indigenous to North Korea – to then-South Korean President Moon Jae-in as gifts after their summit talks in Pyongyang in 2018.

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

Dogs at a university veterinary hospital in Daegu, South Korea, in November 2022.
Dogs at a university veterinary hospital last month in Daegu, South Korea. Photography: 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 southern city of Daeju, zoo officials said.

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

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

The dogs have six descendants between them, all born after arriving in South Korea. One of them, named Byeol, has been bred at Gwangju Zoo since 2019. The other five are in other zoos and a public facility in South Korea.

Gwangju Zoo officials said they will try to raise Byeol and his parent dogs together, although they will be kept separately as they do not recognize each other.

Gomi and Songgang are officially owned by the state, and during their tenure Moon raised them to the presidential residence. After leaving office in May, Moon was able to take them home due to a change in law that allowed presidential gifts to be handled outside the presidential archives if they were animals or plants.

But in early November, Moon’s office accused the Yoon government of refusing to cover the cost of the dogs’ food and veterinary care. Yoon’s office denied the charge, saying it never stopped Moon from keeping the animals and talks about providing financial support were ongoing.

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, a champion of rapprochement with North Korea, has been credited with organizing a now dormant diplomacy over North Korea’s nuclear program, but has also been criticized for his policy of engagement that has won Kim time and to strengthen his country’s nuclear capability in the face of international sanctions. Yoon accused Moon’s engagement policy of being “submissive” to North Korea.

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

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theguardian

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