Dogs Gifted by Kim Jong Un Are Now in Zoo

There was a dispute in South Korea over who should pay for the care of the Pangjun dogs
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 12, 2022 5:31 PM CST
Dogs Gifted by Kim Jong Un Are Now in Zoo
Employees hold a pair of dogs, Gomi, left, and Songgang, at a park in Gwangju, South Korea, Monday, Dec. 12, 2022.   (Chun Jung-in/Yonhap via AP)

A pair of dogs gifted by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un four years ago ended up at a zoo in South Korea after a dispute over who should finance the caring of the animals. Kim had given the two white Pungsan hunting dogs—a breed indigenous to North Korea—to then-South Korean President Moon Jae-in as a gift following their summit talks in Pyongyang in 2018. But the liberal former leader gave up the dogs last month, citing a lack of financial support for the canines from the current conservative government led by President Yoon Suk Yeol, the AP reports. The dogs, named Gomi and Songgang, were moved to a zoo run by a local government in the southern city of Gwangju last Friday after a temporary stay at a veterinary hospital in the southeastern city of Daeju, zoo officials said.

With Gwangju Mayor Kang Gijung in attendance, the dogs were shown off Monday with their nametags around their necks as journalists and other visitors took photos. "Gomi and Songgang are a symbol of peace and South-North Korean reconciliation and cooperation. We will raise them well like we cultivate a seed for peace," Kang said, according to his office. The dogs have six offspring between them, all of them born after they came to South Korea. One of them, named Byeol, has been raised in the Gwangju zoo since 2019. The remaining five are in other zoos and a public facility in South Korea. Gwangju zoo officials said they’ll try to raise Byeol and her parent dogs together, though they're currently kept separately as they don’t recognize each other.

Gomi and Songgang officially belong to state property. While in office, Moon raised them at the presidential residence. After leaving office in May, Moon was able to take them to his private home thanks to a change of law that allowed presidential gifts to be managed 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 cost for the dogs' food and veterinary care. Yoon’s office denied the accusation, saying that it never prevented Moon from keeping the animals and that the discussions about providing financial support were still ongoing. (More South Korea stories.)

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