Inter-Korean canines may find a home in Gwangju
Two dogs reluctantly given up by former President Moon Jae-in — gifts from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un — will probably be sent to a zoo in Gwangju’s Uchi Park.
An official at the Presidential Archives told the JoongAng Ilbo this week that among the zoos they reached out to, Uchi Park was the only one that was willing to raise the pair of Pungsans.
The park’s positive response was relayed to the Ministry of the Interior and Safety for final approval, said the official.
Songkang, a male, and Gomi, a female, were presented to Moon by Kim when, as South Korean president, Moon visited Pyongyang from Sept. 18 to 20, 2018 for their third summit.
The dogs were meant to be a symbol of peace and long-lasting friendship.
After raising them for nearly four years, Moon surrendered the dogs to the Presidential Archives on Nov. 11, blaming the Yoon Suk-yeol administration for not coughing up the money needed to look after them.
Moon’s aides have told local reporters that the dogs were costing him nearly 25 million won ($18,500) per month.
By law, all living creatures and lifeless objects given to the president during his or her term belongs to the state. But a change to a law earlier this year allowed living creatures to be raised by former presidents, which permitted Moon to look after the two dogs after leaving office.
Moon’s aides said the former president had been hoping to get cooperation from the Yoon administration to revise the law again so that state funds could be used to care for the canines, but the process has been gridlocked.
After Moon surrendered the dogs, they were sent to a veterinary hospital affiliated with Kyungpook National University in Daegu, where they underwent medical checks.
Both dogs turned out to be healthy, a vet told the JoongAng Ilbo on Tuesday.
The dogs were supposed to be discharged on Nov. 15, but the vet said that an official from the Presidential Archives recently dropped by to pay the bills and asked whether Songkang and Gomi could stay longer.
The hospital fees were not disclosed.
According to the Presidential Archives, the agency reached out to zoos in Seoul, Incheon, Daejeon and Gwangju asking whether they could raise the Pungsans. All but the Uchi Park in Gwangju said they could not.
Those four zoos are where six pups delivered by Gomi were sent after being born in 2018.
BY KIM YOUN-HO, LEE SUNG-EUN [email@example.com]