Teacher, I like dog food!

This was what one enthusiastic student interrupted my lesson with. Another shocked student responded incredulously, 개음식 (dog food)? I think everyone knew he meant dog meat, but I was on the floor practically break dancing I was laughing so hard. Most kids will say they don’t like dog meat because they like dogs as pets. But this boy was unashamed of his love for dog soup, and the other students were a little surprised at his honesty.

When the students are asked, “Do you like dogs?” they will respond, “Yes, I like dog” as they are not accustomed to using plurals on the end of their nouns. They use a counting unit which varies depending on what kind of object you’re counting. Ironically, it means they like dog meat if they say that and when you say “Oh, you like dog meat?”, they say “NO, teacher!” That’s the fun of teaching English in Korea.

When we first came to Korea they were getting ready for Word Cup 2002. There were a few news stories being done on the Korean’s practice of eating dog soup to get people acquainted with some of Korea’s more controversial side, so when we arrived here they were very defensive about this. Actually, I had not seen any of these programs and was unaware of it until a colleague of mine said when he found out I was headed for Korea: “Tell those @#$% to stop eating dogs”. He added he wasn’t so much against eating the meat, but the practice they used in killing them. It is cruel. I guess they beat the dog to death so that the meat is more tender, but I think there’s something superstitious about it too, meaning they can get some power from it when they eat it, especially men like dog meat. Women eat black goat.

One thing about Korean cuisine is true. They are still very much in touch with their ancient food culture. They use food as medicine and view it that way. So they eat special soups in the summer to help their bodies deal with the heat, such as, 삼개탕 (chicken soup), 보신탕 (dog soup  of body nourishing soup), and 영양 탕 (basically means health soup). They also eat bone broth (oxtail soup) for health. And they eat Kimchi which is a fermented food that originates from having to preserve it over the winter and it’s health boosting qualities are well documented.

Restaurant that sells health soup

Restaurant that sells health soup in the traditional market


Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about dog meat:


Gaegogi (개고기) literally means “dog meat” in Korean. The term itself, however, is often mistaken as the term for Korean soup made from dog meat, which is actually called bosintang (보신탕; 補身湯, Body nourishing soup).

The consumption of dog meat can be traced back to antiquity. Dog bones[further explanation needed] were excavated in a neolithic settlement in Changnyeong, South Gyeongsang Province. A wall painting in the Goguryeo Tombs complex in South Hwangghae Province, a World Heritage site which dates from the 4th century AD, depicts a slaughtered dog in a storehouse. The Balhae people also enjoyed dog meat, and the modern-day tradition of canine cuisine seems to have come from that era.[82]

Although their Mohe ancestors did not respect dogs, the Jurchen people began to respect dogs around the time of the Ming dynasty and passed this tradition on to the Manchu, it was prohibited in Jurchen culture to use dog skin, and forbidden for Jurchens to harm, kill, and eat dogs, the Jurchens believed that the “utmost evil” was the usage of dog skin by Koreans.[citation needed]

South Korea

A dish made with dog meat in South Korea, Seoul, Korea

Dog meat sold in Gyeongdong Market, Seoul, South Korea

In South Korea dog meat is eaten nationwide and all year round, although it is most commonly eaten during summer.[4]

The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety recognizes any edible product other than drugs as food.[83] In the capital city of Seoul, the sale of dog meat was outlawed by regulation on February 21, 1984 by classifying dog meat as ‘repugnant food’ (혐오식품), but the regulation was not rigorously enforced except during the 1988 Seoul Olympics. In 2001, the Mayor of Seoul announced there would be no extra enforcement efforts to control the sale of dog meat during the 2002 FIFA World Cup, which was partially hosted in Seoul. In March 2008, the Seoul Metropolitan Government announced its plan to put forward a policy suggestion to the central government to legally classify slaughter dogs as livestock, reigniting debate on the issue.[84][85][86]

South Korean Food Sanitary Law (식품위생법) does not include dog meat as a legal food ingredient. Also, dog meat has been categorized as ‘repugnant food’ (혐오식품) based on a regulation issued by Seoul Metropolitan Government, of which using as food ingredient is not permitted.[87]

However, the laws are not strictly enforced. The primary dog breed raised for meat, the Nureongi (누렁이), or Hwangu (황구); which is a specific breed, different from the breeds raised for pets in the country.[88][89]

There is a large and vocal group of Koreans (consisting of a number of animal welfare groups) who are against the practice of eating dogs.[90] Popular television shows like ‘I Love Pet’ have documented in 2011, for instance, the continued illegal selling of dog meat and slaughtering of dogs in suburban areas. The program also televised illegal dog farms and slaughterhouses, showing the unsanitary and horrific conditions of caged dogs, several of which were visibly sick with severe eye infections and malnutrition. However, despite this growing awareness, there remains some in Korea that do not eat or enjoy the meat, but do feel that it is the right of others to do so, along with a smaller but still vocal group of pro-dog cuisine people who want to popularize the consumption of dog in Korea and the rest of the world.[90] A group of pro-dog meat individuals attempted to promote and publicize the consumption of dog meat worldwide during the run-up to the 2002 FIFA World Cup, co-hosted by Japan and South Korea, which prompted retaliation from animal rights campaigners and prominent figures such as Brigitte Bardot to denounce the practice.[91] Opponents of dog meat consumption in South Korea are critical of the eating of dogmeat as some dogs are beaten, burnt or hanged to make their meat more tender.[92]

The restaurants that sell dog meat do so, often exclusively, at the risk losing their restaurant licenses. A case of a dog meat wholesaler brought up on charges of selling dog meat in arose in 1997. However, an appeals court acquitted the dog meat wholesaler, ruling that dogs were socially accepted as food.[93] According to the National Assembly of South Korea, more than 20,000 restaurants, including the 6484 registered restaurants, served soups made from dog meat in Korea in 1998.[94][95][96] In 1999 the BBC reported that 8,500 tons of dog meat were consumed annually, with another 93,600 tons used to produce a medicinal tonic called gaesoju (개소주).[96] As of 2007, the dogs were no longer being beaten to death as they had been in past times.

Dog meat is often consumed during the summer months and is either roasted or prepared in soups or stews. The most popular of these soups is bosintang and gaejang-guk, a spicy stew meant to balance the body’s heat during the summer months. This is thought to ensure good health by balancing one’s “ki” or vital energy of the body. A 19th-century version of gaejang-guk explains the preparation of the dish by boiling dog meat with vegetables such as green onions and chili pepper powder. Variations of the dish contain chicken and bamboo shoots.[97]

North Korea

Daily NK reported that the North Korean government included dog meat in its new list of one hundred fixed prices, setting a fixed price of 500 won per kilogram in early 2010.[98]


I’ve never eaten dog soup. I just don’t care to try it. I’m glad to hear they’re not beating the dogs anymore. What about you? Would you like to try it?




12 thoughts on “Teacher, I like dog food!

    • Actually I hadn’t heard of it either until that comment from a guy I worked with. I also hadn’t heard of kimchi before I came here. I was not a well prepared traveler. We just dived into the country cold turkey….haha. Fortunately it wound up being the right thing to do! Cheers Sue!

    • Thanks for your comment Ju-won. I think this practice is more prevalent in the south as there has been slower development down here. We lived across from a dog soup restaurant when we first moved to Masan. We were in a suburb and it was still quite country like as they were developing further out. It was the old with the new. I remember hearing howling dogs. It was awful, but eventually little by little those restaurants were gone and other things built in their place. I hardly ever see them anymore. It’s been very interesting learning about this aspect of the culture.

      • Wow, nice! I did my military service (3 years) in Jinju near Masan. I used to jokingly call Masan “Mei-san” (American style). Yeah, I’ve never tried dog meat, and I don’t have any inclination to try. It’s also generational, too, I think.

      • It’s interesting to hear about your experience and your perspective. I’ve been to Jinju to see where the woman drowned the Japanese Admiral. Jinju is appropriately named. It is beautiful. Have a great day:-)

    • Hey! I’m glad you found it interesting. It certainly is a great topic for conversation:-) Thanks for passing it on, and I agree I don’t want the dog meat passed to me either. I can’t even think about trying it. Thanks for reading!!

  1. Wow, so detailed! One of my uncles in Korea used to have a dog “farm”, where he’d raise dogs just to sell to restaurants. Yipes! It’s a good thing he doesn’t do that business anymore. Although I’m not really big on animal-loving (like some pro-animal lovers can be), I do still believe that dogs truly are/can be a human’s best friend. Great informative post!

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