A pair of dogs given to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un four years ago have ended up in a South Korean zoo after a dispute over who should pay for the animals’ care.
Kim gave the Two white Pungsan hounds – a breed native to North Korea – to the then South Korean President, Moon Jae-in, as a gift 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-yul.
Zoo officials said the dogs, named Gumi and Songjang, 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 Daegu.
In the presence of Gwangju Mayor Kang Jaejoong, the dogs were shown on Monday with their name tags around their necks while reporters and other visitors took pictures.
Gumi and Songgang are symbols of peace, reconciliation and cooperation between South and North Korea. “We will raise them as well as we sow the seeds of peace,” Kang said, according to his office.
The dogs have six offspring between them, all born after they came South Korea. One of them, named Byeol, has been raised at Gwangju Zoo since 2019. The remaining five are housed in other zoos and a public facility in South Korea.
Gwangju Zoo officials said they would try to breed Byul and her mother dogs together, though they are kept separate because they do not recognize each other.
Gumi and Songgang are officially state property, and while in office, Moon raised them at the presidential residence. After leaving office in May, Moon was able to take them into his private home due to a law change that allowed presidential gifts to be administered 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 costs of dog food and veterinary care. Yoon’s office denied the accusation, saying it never banned Moon from keeping the animals and that discussions about providing financial support are ongoing.
Moon, a champion of rapprochement with North Korea, was credited with arranging now-dormant diplomacy over the North’s nuclear program, but he also faced criticism that his policy of engagement allowed Kim to buy time and boost his country’s nuclear capability in the face of international sanctions. Yun accused Moon’s engagement policy of “subservience” to North Korea.
In 2000, Kim’s late father, Kim Jong Il, he presented another pair of Pungsan dogs to the then president of South Korea, 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 dogs of Jindo – a breed native to the Korean island Southern – to Kim Jong Il. North Korean dogs lived in a public zoo near Seoul before dying in 2013.
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