Seoul, South Korea
A pair of dogs donated by North Korea are at the center of a political dispute in South Korea after the country’s former president said he was giving them up due to an apparent lack of legal and financial support from his successor to care for the animals.
The two white Pungsan hunting dogs, Gomi and Songgang, were handed over by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to then South Korean President Moon Jae-in during peace talks in 2018.
The dogs have lived with Moon ever since, including after he was succeeded as president by Yoon Suk Yeol in May, even though they are legally owned by the state.
Moon’s office said in a statement Monday that he would turn the dogs over to presidential records and accused President Yoon of blocking a discussion to give the former president a legal basis to keep them.
“Unlike the presidential records and the Department of the Interior, the presidential office seems opposed to leaving the care of the Pungsan dogs to former President Moon,” Moon’s office said in a statement.
“Looking at recent media reports, the presidential office has no good will for an easy resolution of this issue. Do they hope to leave the blame to Moon? Or because they feel responsible for these companion animals? We are stunned to see the malice of the current administration on a trivial matter like this.”
The Department of Home Affairs and Security confirmed that the government was in talks with Moon to provide monthly grants totaling 2.5 million won ($1,800) for the animals.
President Yoon, who already owns four dogs and three cats, denied he had blocked Moon from keeping the dogs in a statement from his office Monday, saying talks between relevant ministries were ongoing.
“It is not true that former President Moon Jae-in tried to find a basis for raising the Pungsan dogs, but the presidential office objected,” the statement said.
Dogs have traditionally been a symbol of the thawing of ties between the Koreas. In 2000, Kim Jong Il gave two Pungsan puppies – named Uri and Duri – to Kim Dae-jung. The South Korean leader returned the favor with two Jindo dogs named Peace and Reunification.