Wilderdog’s May Purchase for a Pound Recipient, Animal Rescue Korea (ARK) 119, is helping Korea keep dogs out of slaughterhouses and off the streets.
In 2010, Young Ki Lim was working with a South Korean human rights organization when he heard about a tragedy affecting the country’s livestock: an aggressive outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD). To stop FMD, millions of pigs and cattle were rounded up and buried - alive. The disease continued to spread. “I was in shock when I first encountered this news in the media,” Young Ki writes via email. “I started doing everything I can to protect animals.”
Eight years later, Young Ki was driven by this same sense of duty to found Animal Rescue Korea (ARK) 119. The 119 represents ARK’s 119 sponsors - over a hundred individuals with whom Young Ki worked to bring the organization to life. Today, ARK119 is fighting as hard as ever for Korea’s at-risk animals, specifically dogs: According to Humane Society International (HSI), millions of dogs are killed for human consumption across Asia each year.
“It is a shame, but the bad custom of dog meat still very much exists in Korea,” Young Ki says. “It is our main goal to eliminate this.”
In South Korea alone, there are thousands of dog meat farms where Asian breeds Jindo and Tosa, and other dog breeds (even Golden Retrievers) live in abhorrent conditions before being auctioned, slaughtered (often inhumanely), and eaten.
“They are sold at restaurants under the name of ‘yeongyang tang’ and/or ‘bosintang’ (meaning dog meat soup) for about $15 USD per dish,” Young Ki says.
Every year since 2018 (the year ARK119 was founded), the organization has held its March Across the Nation to End Dog Meat. “During this march, we search for and identify dog farms, expose and uncover illegal activities, and report them to the authorities,” Young Ki explains. “We also target slaughterhouses directly to rescue dogs and report them.”
While the consumption of dog meat is not yet illegal in Korea, the operation of dog farms and dog slaughterhouses breaks many Korean laws. That means that once ARK119 identifies and reports them, the government can take action to close them down.
“During our 2022 March, ARK119 rescued 33 dogs directly and rescued about 100 dogs indirectly, by helping other rescue organizations,” Young Ki says. ARK’s 2022 March also shut down six slaughterhouses.
Dog meat doesn’t exclusively come from dogs raised on dog meat farms in Korea; according to HSI, pets are often purchased from their owners, picked up on the streets, and even stolen from backyards to turn a profit on the dog meat market. They’re packed into trucks, where they sometimes stay for days as they travel long distances to slaughterhouses and markets.
According to HSI, most people in South Korea do not eat dog meat, and there is growing opposition to the custom. Young Ki points to a 2022 survey done by the College of Veterinary Medicine at Seoul National University, which found that 64 percent of respondents believe that eating dog meat should be banned by law, and only about 13 percent of respondents said that they would consume dog meat in the future. That last number, thankfully, is decreasing.
Dog meat is mainly eaten by older men who mistakenly believe that it offers health benefits. In fact, eating dog meat is likely to do just the opposite: it puts people at risk for illnesses like trichinellosis, cholera, and rabies. Not to mention the fact that the terrible living conditions for dogs raised on farms generally contributes to their poor health and necessitates heavy antibiotics use; “people who eat those dogs will definitely not be the healthiest,” Young Ki says.
And while the consumption of dogs and all of the atrocities that accompany it are major issues, dogs in South Korea are also abandoned all too often. According to Young Ki and The Korea Herald, more than 100,000 pets are being abandoned each year.
“The government is having a hard time solving this issue,” Young Ki says. “They are trying hard to come up with a solution to prevent abandonment, such as increasing animal registration, increasing sentences for animal abandonment, campaigns, and more. [But] buying and abandoning easily is a social issue. The Animal Protection Law states, ‘abandoned dogs are to be rescued and protected by the nation,’ so the government is utilizing tax money to rescue and protect them.”
Of course, abandoned dogs are also at risk of finding their way into the dog meat trade. ARK119 is working tirelessly to change all of this. “We try our best to close down illegal dog farms and slaughterhouses as much as possible, rescue dogs, and place them in good, loving homes, here and abroad,” says Young Ki. “We are also working hard to help pass laws prohibiting dog meat.”
Fortunately, Young Ki and his organization have received a lot of support and gratitude from South Koreans. “Most South Koreans think highly of animal activists,” he says. “I had the honor of receiving the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs Award in 2022. Our work is being recognized by Korea.”
It’s no wonder, since it’s estimated that 15 million Korean families (about 27 to 30 percent of people in the country) own pets - and 70 percent of these pets are dogs.
Young Ki himself has a dog named Sarang, which means “love,” who he adopted after rescuing her from an animal hoarder about nine years ago. “Her mother gave birth and was raising her and her siblings in a very dirty environment; these dogs did not receive any health care,” he explains. “It’s survival of the fittest there for them. Raising dogs this way is animal abuse and it is considered a hoarding disorder, a kind of mental illness.”
“Sarang was wild and very active when she was young, but as she ages, she is able to let go of her stubbornness,” Young Ki says fondly.
Young Ki, who was a computer programmer in a past life, is extremely passionate about his work rescuing animals and he says that it has profoundly impacted the way he sees the world. “Personally, this work has changed my point of view and philosophy about life,” he says. He also sees others’ perspectives shifting around him. “People's point of view of animals is also changing [in Korea]. Laws and regulations about animal rights are being reinforced and dog meat will come to an end,” he says.
One of the dozens of dogs rescued by ARK119 last year made a lasting impression on Young Ki: Ruby was very ill and weak when they found her. “She had to witness countless dogs being slaughtered in front of her and she lost her will to live,” Young Ki says. “We rushed her to the animal hospital and she went through a month-long treatment before she could be healthy enough to come to our Seoul office. Now, she is starting to enjoy and treasure every moment.” Ruby embodies ARK119’s mission pretty perfectly.
We admire the difficult and essential work that Young Ki and his colleagues are doing in South Korea, and that’s why we’re proud to have selected ARK119 as this month’s Purchase for a Pound donation recipient. We will be donating one pound of kibble for every purchase made at wilderdog.com during the month of May to ARK119.
Since ARK is an international organization that flies rescue dogs to the U.S., Canada, and Europe, they are always looking for volunteer couriers, people who are traveling internationally and willing to check dogs under their names. There is no cost to couriers, except the cost of their plane tickets - ARK will help with fundraising if appropriate — and after the flight, they just hand the dogs off to their new adoptive parents or rescue organizations.
If you’re interested in adopting one of ARK119’s sweet rescues, visit their website to learn more about the adoption process, which is actually pretty straightforward: After you choose a dog and submit the application form, ARK will interview you and complete reference checks. Once you’re approved, you sign a couple of forms and pay the adoption fee, and it usually takes two to four weeks for your dog to get to you - unless you fly with them yourself. Once you pick up the pup from the airport, voila - you’ve officially got a new baby.
Finally, if you’d like to support ARK119 directly, but you’re not quite ready to add to your family, please consider making a donation via Paypal (firstname.lastname@example.org). And don’t forget to tell all of your friends!