Seoul, South Korea
A pair of dogs gifted by North Korea are the center of a political dispute in South Korea after the country’s former President said he was giving them up over 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 presented to then-South Korean President Moon Jae-in by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at 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.
On Monday, Moon’s office said in a statement that he was turning the dogs over to the Presidential Archives, accusing President Yoon of blocking a discussion to provide a legal basis for the former president to keep them.
“Unlike the Presidential Archives and the Ministry of Interior, Presidential Office seems to be against leaving care of the Pungsan dogs to former President Moon,” the statement from Moon’s office said.
“Looking at recent media reports the Presidential Office has no good will for a simple resolution of this issue. Are they hoping to leave the blame to Moon? Or because they feel responsible for these pet animals? We are flabbergasted to see malice of the current administration that is on display at a petty issue as this.”
The Ministry of the Interior and Safety confirmed the government was in talks with Moon to provide monthly subsidies totaling 2.5 million won ($1,800) for the animals.
President Yoon, who already has four dogs and three cats, denied blocking Moon from keeping the dogs in a statement from his office Monday, saying discussions between relevant ministries were ongoing.
“It is not true that former President Moon Jae-in tried to come up with a basis for raising the Pungsan dogs but the presidential office objected,” the statement said.
Dogs have historically been a symbol of thawing 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.