Korea’s consumption of dog meat (gae-gogi; 개고기) became global knowledge when the country hosted the 1988 Olympics, at which time the government kowtowed to Western mores and attempted to sweep the issue under the carpet.

Today, eating dog meat amounts to a shameful national secret. Foreigners looking for it on the menu or in their hamburgers are likely to be relieved, as it’s almost nowhere to be seen. Should the issue be raised, even with a Korean you know well, they’ll probably laugh and tell you that they don’t eat dog, and that the practice only takes place behind closed doors, if at all.

That said, and though it’s true that few young people consume dog, the soup yeongyangtang, for one, is still popular with older Koreans owing to its purported health-giving properties, and can be hunted down in specialist restaurants.

Any fears of Koreans chowing down on an Alsatian or Border Collie should be quelled; almost all dog meat comes from a scraggly mongrel breed colloquially known as the ddong-gae (똥개), or “shit-dog”, an animal named for its tendency to eat whatever it finds on the floor. Even so, the poor conditions that the animals are often kept in, and the continuing – and occasionally verified – stories of dogs being clubbed to death to tenderize the meat, are good reasons to avoid this kind of meal. For those who wish to know, it’s a slightly stringy meat somewhere between duck and beef in texture, and is generally agreed to taste better than it smells.


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