Despite orders from the government, nearly all restaurants serving dog meat in South Korea’s Pyeongchang County, where the Winter Olympics are being held starting Friday, will continue to sell the controversial dish.
Of the 12 restaurants serving dog meat dishes in the area, only two have complied with local authorities, who offered them subsidies in exchange for taking the item off the menu during the games, Channel News Asia reports.
Eating dog meat is both a common and legal practice in Korea and many parts of Asia, though many activists are fighting to ban consumption of the greasy red meat. In addition, there are reportedly thousands of restaurants serving “gaegogi” dishes around the country — the delicacy is eaten mostly by older people and is believed to have strengthening and medicinal properties, USA Today reports.
In an effort to prepare for the Olympics and the influx of visitors that comes with it, officials in Pyeongchang County have spent millions of dollars in an attempt to Westernize amenities in the area. This included providing foreign-language menus at restaurants and restrooms, kitchens and dining areas, in addition to asking them to halt serving dog meat.
But despite being urged by local authorities, many business owners don’t feel as though they should have to change their menus just to accommodate the foreigners.
“I have been selling dog meat for decades. It is really difficult for me to change my menu just because of the Olympics,” says Park Young-ae, whose Young Hoon Restaurant is close to the Olympic stadium.
Pyeongchang County government official Lee Yong-bae told AFP they’ve gotten a lot of pushback from those who serve dog meat on a regular basis.
“We’ve faced a lot of complaints from restaurant operators that we are threatening their livelihood,” he said.
“Some of them initially shifted to selling pork or things instead of dog meat only to find their sales plunging sharply. They then switched back to dog meat,” Channel News Asia reported.
Young-ae said the government wouldn’t provide her with the aid she needs to make improvements to her restaurant unless she stops selling the dog meat. Officials told her this is because “foreigners tend to have stereotypes” about the local dish.
Refusing to stop serving the meat, Young-ae ended up spending about $6,000 of her own money on new tables, floors and wallpaper.
“Maybe it’s something I should have done for the sake of the Olympics, but I felt too uncomfortable because I’ve been doing this for so long,” she said, just before cracking open a big plastic container of dried dog meat and ribs. “It’s unfair that they don’t give aid to dog meat restaurants but give it to other restaurants.”
The 2018 Olympic organizing committee issued the following statement to USA Today on the matter: “We are aware of the international concern around the consumption of dog meat in Korea. This is a matter which the government should address. We hope that this issue will not impact on the delivery or reputation of the games and the province and we will support the work of the province and government on this topic as needed. Also, dog meat will not be served at any games venue.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.