North Korea's food shortage crisis has taken a serious turn. After failing to resolve the issue, North Korea's premier Kim Jong Un has ordered citizens to hand over pet dogs so that they can be killed and sold for meat.
In July 2020, North Korea's Supreme Leader banned owning pet dogs saying the practice was a decadent and tainted trend of bourgeois ideology. Authorities have already identified houses with dogs and have rounded them up. While pet owners are cursing Kim for such a heinous act, little they can do to prevent such a situation over fear for life, reports said.
"Authorities have identified households with pet dogs and are obliging them to give them up or forcefully confiscating them and putting them down," a source told South Korea's The Chosunilbo newspaper, adding that some dogs are being sent to zoos or restaurants for meat.
Dog Meat Culture
Like China, dog meat is a delicacy in the Korean peninsula with over one million dogs being farmed for meat every year in South Korea. However, the practice is slowly fading out in the South.
But in the North, it's still a popular protein that is considered to provide energy and stamina during hot and humid months of summer. Dog meat is also consumed in winter in a spicy soup or stew with vegetables to raise body temperature, reported the Daily Mail.
"Ordinary people raise pigs and livestock on their porches, but high-ranking officials and the wealthy own pet dogs, which stoked some resentment," the source told The Chosunilbo. He added that the clampdowns had been often enforced without enthusiasm but this time it seemed to be serious and severe.
The reason could be the severe food shortage North Korea is facing over the last few months. According to a U.N. report, around 60 percent of the country's 25.5 million population are facing "widespread food shortages." With international sanctions imposed on the country for its nuclear program and COVID-19 pandemic, the situation has worsened. With pork and beef considered a luxury for most people in the North, dog meat has been the only protein to rely on during the crisis.
Change in Pet Owning Policy
North Korea although had reservations against owning a dog as a pet, it changed its policy in 1989 when the country hosted the World Festival of Youth and Students. Dogs then became a symbol of economic prosperity as the country tried to paint a good picture for the world audience. Many middle-class and wealthy Pyongyang residents flaunted lapdogs on state-run television programs as status symbols.
Even Kim presented South Korean President Moon Jae In with a pair of 'pungsan', indigenous hunting dogs in 2018 as a symbol of growing friendship between the two countries. But soon policies reverted and Kim's regime imposed a tax on dog furs that could be turned into coats.
But now that borders with China are sealed due to the Coronavirus pandemic, food shortage has worsened. China is the major source of food supply for North Korea since 1969. In addition, the country has seen a series of flooding that has impacted the harvest.
Even this month, the flood has wiped out crops and inundated agricultural areas of the North. Around 100,000 acres of land have been underwater of which 1,500 acres were rice fields while 17,000 homes and more than 600 public buildings were destroyed in the flood.
Despite the serious loss, Kim has refused to seek help from outside. In a politburo meeting, he asked North Koreans to face the situation and not to accept assistance from any country fearing the spread of Coronavirus. He instead decided to use his food reserves that is considered an SOS Signal to China for emergency food aid.