A pair of dogs gifted by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un four years ago ended up at a zoo in South Korea after a dispute over who should pay for the animals’ care.
Kim had given Two white Pungsan hounds – a native of North Korea – was presented to then-South Korean President Moon Jae-in after a summit in Pyongyang in 2018.
But Moon gave up the dogs last month, citing a lack of funding for the dogs from the conservative government led by Yoon Suk Yeol.
The dogs, named Komi and Changgang, were transferred to a zoo run by local authorities in the southern city of Gwangju after a temporary stay at a veterinary hospital in the southeastern city of Daeju, zoo officials said.
The dogs were displayed on Monday with name tags around their necks as journalists and other onlookers took photos, with Gwangju Mayor Kang Gijung in attendance.
“Komi and Songgang are symbols of peace and South-North Korean reconciliation and cooperation. Let’s nurture them well as we sow the seeds of peace,” Kang said, according to his office.
There are six offspring between the dogs, all of which were born after they arrived South Korea. One of them, named Baiol, has been bred at the Gwangju Zoo since 2019. The remaining five are at other zoos and public facilities in South Korea.
Officials at the Gwangju Zoo said they will try to keep Paeol and her mother dogs together, although they are kept separately because they don’t recognize each other.
Moon raised Comey and Changhong in the presidential residence while they were officially state property and in office. After leaving office in May, Moon was able to take them to his private home, which allowed presidential gifts to be managed outside of the Presidential Archives if they were animals or plants.
But in early November, Moon’s office accused the Yoon government of refusing to cover the cost of dog food and veterinary care. Yoon’s office denied the allegation, saying it never prevented Moon from owning the animals and that discussions about providing financial support were ongoing.
Moon, a champion of rapprochement with North Korea, is credited with orchestrating now-dormant diplomacy over the North’s nuclear program, but has also faced criticism that his policy of engagement allowed Kim to buy time and boost his country’s nuclear capability in the face of international sanctions. Yoon has accused Moon’s engagement policy of “submission” to North Korea.
In 2000, Kim’s late father, Kim Jong-il, South Korean President Kim Tae-jung presented another pair of Pungsan dogs as a gift after the meeting in Pyongyang, the first inter-Korean summit since the 1948 breakup. Kim Tae-jung, a liberal, presented two Jindo dogs—a breed native to the South Korean island—Kim Jong-il. The North Korean dogs lived in a public zoo near Seoul before they died in 2013.
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