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      트위터 페이스북 미투데이 네이버 구글 msn  
A Food for All Generations
2015년 07월 10일 (금) 16:16:33 GLOBE globe@jbnu.ac.kr

   
It’s summer and people are now drinking iced Americanos instead of hot ones. However, this seems to be a distinctly Asian custom. But it is a relatively new custom. A far older summer tradition is eating Boshintang (보신탕), meaning "invigorating soup". Even the mention of the word seems to cause a gasp. As a foreigner I was appalled when I learned that dog soup is eaten in Korea. And then, as I began to try to understand the place that has become my home, I felt the need to understand this custom. I am fascinated by this rather contentious, former staple of Korean life and its origins. I am also intrigued by how people’s opinions of boshintang have changed. Ironically, as Korean people seem to grow less tolerant of this tradition and seemingly ashamed of it, I am becoming more accepting of it and even feel it should not be swept under the carpet. I have never tried nor expect will ever try boshintang, but feel it’s important to understand the origins of this tradition.
Eating dog meat is a very old Korean custom, dating back to the 4th century AD. There are many reasons why dog meat is consumed in Korea; one of the most regularly stated reasons is that it increases virility. And despite being a rather taboo subject these days, it is still consumed by a large number of people in Korea. Both boshintang and samgyetang (삼계탕), chicken ginseng soup, are popular summer foods even today. But it does seem that while the older generation is continuing this ancient tradition, young people want to disown it. Why is it ok to eat chicken, pork, and beef but not dog meat? There are some familiar reasons for and against eating dog meat but they are often untrue or misinformed. And it’s important to know some facts about dog meat before making judgments about the people who eat it, as I once did. Therefore, I want to take this opportunity to explore the reasons for and against eating dog meat.
Korean scholars, known as Seonbi, said boshintang and samgyetang should be eaten during boknal (복날), the hottest days of the summer. These three days are according to the lunar calendar and are known as chobok (초복), jungbok (중복), and malbok (말복). Though samgyetang is consumed more often these days, boshintang can still be found.
Some other interesting facts are that dog meat is not classified as livestock as chicken, beef, pork, and other meats are. So this means it is not regulated as the aforementioned meats. Most people around the world have no problem with eating chicken, cow, or pig but many westerners disapprove of eating dog. In Islamic countries people don’t eat pork and in India they don’t eat beef, both of which are commonly eaten in western countries. So why is the fact that Koreans eat dog meat so frowned upon? One reason may be that the method of slaughtering dogs is said to be unethical and inhumane. Though restaurants serving dog meat must comply with general hygiene standards and are inspected to make sure they reach the standards set out, the methods of slaughtering dogs is not subject to inspection. It is often claimed that the slaughtering of dogs is brutal. However, these practices have been and continue to be stamped out and new, more ethical practices are being implemented. I have heard that the reason for killing the animal in the “traditional” way is to make the meat as tender as possible, intensifying the taste of the meat. Well, what about the method of chicken farming? In many countries, chickens are bred in extremely poor conditions and live in coops all their lives without ever being let out of their cramped environments. Why don’t we complain about this? Are dogs more precious than chickens? I have come to think that if we are going to criticize a group of people for treating a particular animal cruelly, we should look at ourselves first. People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.
Then there is the argument that the dogs are specifically bred for food, not meant to be a pet. Nureongi (누렁이), a yellowish, short haired dog, is not usually kept as a pet and is instead considered to be livestock. Many Koreans distinguish this type of dog from other kinds of dogs, ones kept as pets. And, legally speaking, nureongi are difficult to define. As they are not kept as pets, they are not subject to the same laws that dogs considered to be pets are. However, this is a very complex issue that is still debated without any clear winner due to the legal gray area in which it lingers. On one hand, people believe it should be officially legalized and monitored as beef, pork, and chicken is, but on the other hand many people believe it should be banned outright.
When I ask my students about their opinions of boshintang, and dog meat in general, they often say they have tried it but were unaware of what it was when they ate it and wouldn’t try it again. It is not hard to see the effect western culture has had on this country but maybe it’s not been totally positive.
As with many traditions, I fear this is just another aspect of the country that is slipping away and being replaced by new, commercial customs such as Peppero Day and White Day. I am absolutely against unnecessary cruelty to animals and still to this day disagree with eating dog meat but I do hope that westerners and the younger generation of Koreans can learn to be more tolerant to people’s beliefs and customs in this rapidly changing society. Korea has transformed drastically in the past fifty years and, although this transformation has been largely positive, I do wonder how much further this country will change and what will be left of it once the transformation is complete.

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