Seoul, South Korea
A pair of dogs gifted by North Korea are at the center of a political row 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, even after Yoon Suk Yeol succeeded him as president in May, although they are legally owned by the state.
On Monday, Moon’s office said in a statement that it was handing over the dogs 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 interior ministry, the presidential office appears to be against leaving the care of the Pungsan dogs to former President Moon,” the statement from Moon’s office said.
“Seeing recent media reports, the Office of the President has no goodwill for a simple resolution of this problem. Are they hoping to put the blame on the Moon? Or because they feel responsible for these pets? We are appalled to see the malice of the current administration on display over such a small issue.”
The Ministry of Home Affairs and Security 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 he had blocked Moon from keeping the dogs in a statement from his office on Monday, saying discussions between relevant ministries were ongoing.
“It is not true that former President Moon Jae-in tried to find a base to breed Pungsan dogs, but the presidential office opposed it,” the statement said.
Dogs have historically been a symbol of thawing ties between Koreans. 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.