“Dog and I, and Animal Protection Law” by Changwon Pyo
Mr. Pyo Chang Won is the chairman of the Animal Welfare Committee at the National Assembly of Korea and is one of the key men when it comes to the enforcement and legislation of the animal welfare laws.
Mr. Pyo recently wrote about his childhood and of how the dogs in his life were his best friends, and of how much joy they brought to him in those early years. He also wrote about witnessing gruesome cruelty against dogs by members of his own village and neighboring towns, and of the promise he made as a young boy that some day, when he was grown, he would protect the dogs and stop people from hurting them. Mr. Pyo shared his struggle as a grown man between national pride and wanting to keep his childhood promise to the dogs. His story has been excellently translated into English by volunteer Tami Jussman and can be read in its entirety below.
Mr. Pyo is now in a position to take the first step in fulfilling his promise and is doing so by introducing, in September, comprehensive amendments to the Animal Protection Law. These amendments, while not banning the dog and cat meat industry as that is simply not realistic at this time, will clarify the law and make punishment for violations more severe. This is an important gateway to ultimately ending the dog and cat meat trade in the future.
Our thanks and gratitude is extended to Nami Kim of SaveKoreanDogs who submitted a proposal to Mr. Pyo, detailing recommendations for changes to the Animal Protection Law. Her proposal can be read HERE.
Nami Kim (SaveKoreanDogs):
MP Pyo Chang Won is the chairman of the Animal Welfare Committee at the parliament of Korea. We met on the last Boknal day when I submitted my proposal to the amendments/new legislation. The English version of the translation is under my comments.
Recently, he wrote about his childhood and the dogs in his life, how he grew up with dogs, the cruelty done to the dogs in the village he grew up. He is introducing a comprehensive amendments to the Animal Protection Law in September. Here is English translation by Tami Zussman, the best translator Korean into English I know of.
Click HERE to read an article about Assembly member Pyo Chang Won, “Criminal profiler joins opposition party”.
“Dogs and I, and Animal Protection Law”
Growing up in Kyung Gi Do, Dong-Du-Chun, my very best friends were my dogs during those 5 years of my elementary school days.
One day my father brought home a puppy, a puppy I had been dreaming about for a long time. That evening, my family had a naming contest. Everyone liked my choice and we named her “Bonnie”. Bonnie was a very cute and pretty puppy with beige hair. Not long after, she fell very ill (distemper) and passed away. We buried her on a hill and made a small grave for her. I cried for several days mourning for her death.
Awhile later, my father brought home a German Shephard mix. We named him “Bear”. I was the youngest child in the family and he waited for me under the fence every day. As soon as I would come home from school, he would greet me happily nipping at back of my foot. He was very mischievous. He grew big as months went by and one day, he ate rat poison. He suffered a painful death and left my world.
Subsequently, I fell in love with my neighbor’s dog, “Dol-Yi.” He disappeared one day and I looked for him everywhere in town. I did my own investigation and learned from several witnesses that a “dog merchant” took him. I begged my parents to report him to police. A few days later, somehow Dol-Yi escaped and returned home. I rejoiced in such happiness reuniting with my dog. Fortunately, he lived a full life and died naturally as an old dog several years later. The grief I felt after Dol-Yi’s death was different from the griefs I felt from the other two dogs’ sudden untimely death by illness and accident. It was painful but I understood his death and it was acceptable.
However, in the same period I was experiencing love and loss for Bonnie, Bear and Dol-Yi, I also experienced an appalling shock. I witnessed several barbaric slaughters of dogs by lakeside and in the neighboring town. They hung a dog from a tree branch and beat it to a pulp, burnt its hair with a torch, hanging a bloody body of a skinned dog, etc. The scenes were very gruesome. On occasions, I verbally attacked the elders who were strangers to me and sometimes, I just cried alone.
As a young boy, I made a promise to the dogs; that when I grow up and have strength, I would take care of them, protect them and that I would stop people from hurting them.
Ahead of 1988 Seoul Olympics, there was a major public debate to ban Boshintang to avoid ‘International Shame’ in Korea. Laws banning Boshintang were introduced in the parliament at that time, but the strong opposition force based on opinions such as “Protection of Tradition,” “Individual Food Taste”, “Traditional Food” etc, caused me confusion. I also learned several of my own close relatives and family friends ate Boshintang on BokNal or for speedy recovery from a surgery or illness. It was very difficult for me to accept it.
After I became a police officer, I struggled each time I was invited by my superiors to a group meal. They were often held at a Boshintang restaurant. Fortunately, they had other food items such as Samgetang (Chicken soup) on the menu for people like me. I simply could not even try Boshintang. However, I kept my silence as a “non-Boshintang person” as I did not want to invade into other people’s “rights”.
While I was studying in England, I roughed up a much younger Caucasian British student with my Taekwondo after he greeted me with “Did you eat dog meat?” On another occasion, I was sitting next to an American couple in a plane in USA. They asked me where I was from. Upon hearing my reply, after an initial hesitation, they asked me “Do you eat dogs?” To that I replied coldly, “I only eat hotdogs.” There was another incident. I was attending a seminar in Sydney, Australia. I came upon a group of people protesting against Korea’s dog meat consumption. They were holding horrific pictures. I saw a young Korean girl arguing in tears with the protesters in limited English, so I joined in to help this Korean student. She ended up leaving still in tears. Experiencing these incidents made me feel more protective of my national pride and countrymen. However, that instinct became a wedge between myself and earlier promise I made to the dogs.
Dear Boshintang related Business owners, Meat Dog Farmers, and those who enjoy eating Boshintang: I do not hate, criticize or demean you. There are differences between us, however, I respect the differences.
However, although the dogs are only animals, they are sacred living beings. They are our children’s and our closest friends and companions. We cannot ignore our friends’ pain, suffering and severely cruel reality.
It is my belief there is absolutely not a single excuse justifying the inhumane and extreme cruelty inflicted upon the dogs during the breeding and slaughtering process.
It is my further belief that a society that provides protection for rights of a dog’s life will only provide better protection of rights of human.
The introduction of my amendments to Animal Protection Rights is my first step to fulfill my promise I made to the dogs as a young boy.
I am mindful of our society, reality of our citizens’ lives and their opinions. Accordingly, I intend to move step by step, strategically and continually until I fulfill my promise.
Thank you for reading this long statement.
Click HERE to read in Korean from his Facebook page.
[개와 나, 그리고 동물보호법]
경기도 동두천에서 보낸 초등학교(당시엔 ‘국민학교’) 1~5 학년 5년 간의 어린 시절 내내, 제게 가장 가까운 친구는 강아지들이었습니다.
꿈에도 그리던 강아지를 아버지가 데려 온 날 우리 가족은 ‘이름짓기’ 회의를 했고, 제 의견을 존중해 ‘바니’라고 지었죠.
너무나 예뻤던 베이지 색 강아지 바니는 얼마 못 가 ‘홍역’을 앓다가 죽었고, 동네 언덕에 묻어주고 작은 무덤을 만들어 준 후 며칠을 눈물로 보냈습니다.
얼마 후 아버지는 다시 셰퍼드 계열 잡종 강아지를 데려오셨고, 우리는 녀석에게 ‘곰’이라는 이름을 지어주었습니다. 식구 중 가장 어린 제가 학교갔다 돌아 오기만을 기다리던 녀석은 담밑에 숨어있다가 제게 달려들어 뒷꿈치를 물며 장난을 치곤 했죠. 몇 개월 만에 덩치가 저 만해질 정도로 커버린 녀석도 결국, 부엌에 놔 둔 쥐약을 먹고는 고통 속에 몸부림 치다 세상을 떠났습니다.
이후, 이웃집 바둑이 ‘똘이’에게 꽂힌 전 어느 날 녀석이 ‘실종’되자 온 동네를 헤매고 다녔고, 탐문수사를 통해 여러 목격자로 부터 ‘개장수’ 아저씨가 데려갔다는 진술을 확보하고 경찰에 신고해 달라고 부모님을 졸랐습니다. 며칠 후, 어떻게 탈출했는 지 녀석은 돌아왔고, 우린 ‘이산가족 상봉’의 기쁨을 누렸죠. 다행히 녀석은 몇 년 뒤 노환에 의한 자연사를 했습니다. 이전 갑작스런 병사와 사고사로 겪어야 했던 이별의 아픔과는 사뭇 다른, ‘서운하고 섭섭하고 아쉽고 슬프지만, 담담하게 소화하고 감당하고 받아들일 만한 슬픔’이었습니다.
바니와 곰과 똘이와 우정과 친교, 그리고 이별을 나누고 겪던 사이 사이에, 강둑과 이웃 마을 등에서 개를 나무에 매달아 몽둥이로 때리고, 털에 불을 질러 그슬리고, 가죽을 벗겨 온통 벌건 참혹한 시신으로 걸어두는 등, 너무나 잔혹한 광경들을 목격하곤 커다란 충격을 받았습니다. 때론 낯모르는 어른들께 거칠게 대들기도 하고, 때론 혼자 몰래 울기도 했죠.
어린 마음에 개들에게 약속을 했습니다. 커서 어른이 되어 힘이 생기면, 지켜주고 보호해 주겠다고. 사람들이 괴롭히지 못하게 해 주겠다고.
1988년 서울 올림픽을 앞두고 ‘국제적 망신’을 피하기 위해 보신탕을 금지하자는 여론이 일었고, 국회에서 개고기금지법이 발의되기도 했지만, ‘문화사대주의’, ‘먹거리 다양성’, ‘전통음식’ 등의 반론이 거세게 이는 현상을 목격하고 혼란을 겪기도 했습니다. 가까운 가족, 친지들도 복날이나 이런 저런 수술을 하신 후 빠른 회복을 위해 보신탕을 드신다는 것을 알게 되었고 많이 힘들었습니다.
경찰관이 된 후, 과장님, 서장님 주관으로 보신탕 집에서 회식을 할 때, 무척 괴로웠습니다. 다행히 저처럼 보신탕을 못먹는 사람들을 위한 삼계탕 등 다른 메뉴도 있긴 했지만, 영 못먹겠더군요. 하지만, ‘다른 사람의 권리’를 침해하고 싶지 않았기에 그냥 묵묵히 ‘보신탕을 못먹는 사람’으로 남아 있었습니다.
영국 유학 중 한참 나이 어린 백인 영국 학생으로 부터 ‘개고기 먹고 왔니?’ 란 인사말을 듣고 태권도 시범을 빙자해 혼을 내 준 일, 미국 국내선 비행기 안에서 옆자리 미국인 부부가 한참을 망설이다 어디서 왔느냐 묻고, 한국에서 왔다니까 ‘do you eat dogs?’ 라 물어서 ‘I only eat hotdogs’라고 퉁명스럽게 답한 경험, 호주 학회 참가 중 시드니 거리에서 끔찍한 사진들과 함께 ‘한국 개고기 반대’ 시위를 하는 호주인들에게 부족한 영어로 항의하다 결국 눈물을 흘리고 마는 한국인 여학생을 도와 함께 항의하던 경험 등은 민족과 국가의 자존심 문제로 어린 시절 개들에게 한 약속을 자꾸 미루게 만들었습니다.
보신탕 업주와 종사자 여러분, 식용견 사육에 종사하는 분들, 보신탕을 즐기시는 분들을 비난하거나 미워하거나 욕하지 않습니다. 저와 다르지만, 존중합니다.
하지만, 비록 동물이지만, 소중한 생명체이며 저나 우리 아이들의 가깝고 친근한 벗, 친구인 개들의 아픔과 고통과 참혹한 현실을 외면할 수는 없습니다.
어떤 이유로도 비인간적이고 가혹한 사육 및 도축 방법을 합리화할 수 없다고 생각합니다.
개들의 생명과 권리가 보호받는 사회에서 인간도 더 잘 존중받고 보호된다고 믿습니다.
이번에 발의한 동물보호법 개정안은 어린 시절 개들에게 했던 약속을 지키는 첫 걸음입니다.
우리 사회와 시민들의 상황과 인식에 맞추어 조금씩 차례로 단계적으로, 약속을 지켜 나가겠습니다.
긴 글 읽어주셔서 고맙습니다.