Caged dogs await slaughter at Moran Market in Seongnam.

Is the End Near for South Korea’s Largest Dog Meat Market?

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When South Koreans hear “Moran Market,” they usually think of one thing: dog meat.

Moran Market is the country’s largest distribution outlet for dog meat. Located in Seongnam just south of Seoul, it is home to 22 dog meat suppliers and facilities for caging and slaughtering dogs. Some 80,000 dogs are reportedly traded there for meat every year. 

It also attracts big protests by animal rights groups on every boknal — three days in summer when traditional beliefs call for eating dog meat as a way to restore one’s vitality.

But perhaps not for long. Change is coming to the infamous market, which has been a source of controversy both in and outside South Korea.

Back in December, Seongnam mayor Lee Jae-myung, a presidential hopeful, reached an agreement with the dog meat vendors to close the caging and slaughtering facilities. 

Yesterday first steps were taken toward implementing the deal between the city and vendors, but of course, there are complications.

Some merchants now want to back out of the agreement, saying that their livelihoods are threatened and compensations insufficient. They also claim that only by slaughtering dogs on site and selling fresh meat can they remain competitive, according to Yonhap News.

The first step toward no dog meat at Seongnam’s Moran Market, but some merchants rebel. 

The merchants are fighting a losing battle against economic reality. Fewer South Korean restaurants have dog meat on their menus, and young people are becoming less likely to seek it out. A 2015 survey by Gallup Korea showed that while 39 percent of those in their fifties said they had eaten dog meat in the past one year, only 17 percent of the respondents under 30 said the same.

Another blow comes from the city’s makeup, which has changed much since the dog meat industry established itself here in the 1960s. Back then, many residents were poor migrants displaced by urban development in Seoul and the area had a reputation for being rough. Now Seongnam is synonymous with Bundang, a rich bedroom community. Newer, wealthier residents have little taste for animal slaughter in their own town.  

It does not mean Moran Market will stop selling dog meat entirely. Some merchants who support closing the caging and butchering facilities say they still want to carry on with sales. They will just do the more unpleasant business of killing elsewhere.

Cover image: Caged dogs at Moran Market await slaughter. (Source: Screen captured from Yonhap News TV)

Se-Woong Koo wrote this radar report.

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Se-Woong Koo earned his Ph.D. from Stanford University and taught Korean studies at Stanford, Yale, and Ewha Women's University. His writings have appeared in The New York Times, Foreign Policy, and Inside Higher Ed among other publications.

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