Living in Wonju South Korea, These Many Long Years

Living in Wonju South Korea, These Many Long Years: Version 2.0!

Saturday, August 10, 2013


dog soupDuring my long sojourn on this fine peninsula, I've always avoided eating one food: dog.

This was partly due to my western sensibility of seeing dogs as being far from food; dogs have been great human companions for millennia, and eating one just seemed wrong.

I had another reason for not eating them, a traumatic experience during my first year in the sunshine ROK: I had been invited to hang out with a bunch of adjusshis at a remote camp in the deep wilds of Gangwon province, to drink and generally have a good time bonding. One guy had brought along a dog in a cage, which I didn't think too much of until early the second day. Fido seemed fairly pleasant and excited despite being in a rough metal cage, and I suggested we let him out to run around and get some exercise. At the time, everyone laughed at me; as I didn't understand what was being said, all I could do was smile along. When two of the guys dragged him out to a remote part of the camp, I understood why they had laughed.

The two guys tied the hind legs and hung him from what I thought was a chin up bar. When he was tightly secured, they used what resembled small baseball bats to work the dog over. I knew then that I was truly in another place, far from Kansas, where the normal rules did not apply. The howls and yelps only seemed to spur the guys on. When they took a blowtorch to burn the hair off I asked the guy who had invited me if I could be brought to the nearest bus stop; the dog may still have been alive at that point, or it may simply have been the involuntary twitching of the muscles, but I'd had enough.

In the car, he asked if it had bothered me; when I didn't respond his voice got an edge I'd never heard before: he said he thought I'd be alright with the whole thing, since I liked to talk about hunting, gutting animals and the like. He thought I was a real man who could stomach it. All I could say there is a difference between killing an animal on the hunt and purposefully beating one slowly to death. We didn't really hang out after that.

Twelve years later, I find myself in a dog restaurant. The atmosphere is light and congenial, the conversation witty and sanguine. One of the party needles the old lady in the restaurant until she brings us the delicacy, a huge steamed dog phallus. Everyone tucks in, one of the party joking about how it is his second time to eat dog soup that day, and how it is a shame his wife is so far away.

I find the meat too soft, the phallus sponge like. Still, I eat heartily, and the free flow of wine and beer make the whole experience jovial.  I dry the bone from the phallus and hide it in my pocket, something to remind me later of just how people can change given time and circumstance.  Whatever.  The best thing is I didn't feel even a little bit dirty.  We are far from Kansas after all.  Step up or go home, right?


Anonymous said...

Shooting is one thing, you can always miss. You can always shoot each other too!
Personally, I think if the animal is going to be slaughtered, do it in a slaughter house. But then there is the countervailing opinion that pigs are intelligent animals and know they're going to be killed in line, so is that any better?
I dunno. I've had dogmeat 3 times. I don't think saying a happy dog is a tasty dog has much currency.
If it meant something to you...

Korean Stig said...

Older people like the dogmeat to be soft as they're usually fighting digestion problems or have dentures. The Su yuk could be more to your likening though.

Sarah said...

If you are okay with eating Fido, you deserve to burn in hell. As a foreigner in Korea it should be your responsibility to point out how this is a horribly cultural practice. Eating dog is one thing, but killing it that was is just unforgiveable. Any ajeoshi who kills a dog or eats a dog that suffered should burn in hell. I'm disappointed that you are okay with this, and it just shows how you probably have been in Korea too long if you are accepting this kind of thing. Go home before it is REALLY too late.

F5Waeg said...

Thanks for the heads up

Anonymous said...

I guess Sarah needs to quit her day job and save all of Korea from going to hell.

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