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Wednesday, September 29, 1999 Published at 11:26 GMT 12:26 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

No dogs on Seoul menus

Three million dogs are eaten annually by by South Koreans, say experts

By Andrew Wood in Seoul

The South Korean Government rates the privilege of hosting major sporting events higher than the traditional eating of dog meat.

Seoul says it will not support attempts to lift a ban on eating the meat widely regarded as a delicacy throughout Asia.

Dog restaurants were outlawed before the 1988 Seoul Olympics after an international outcry.

Now the government is worried that legalising the consumption of dogs may provoke another backlash before the 2002 football World Cup, which is being held jointly in South Korea and Japan.

Better sex

Koreans are very sensitive about the issue of eating dogs.

[ image: South Korea is co-hosting the 2002 World Cup]
South Korea is co-hosting the 2002 World Cup
Supporters say there is archaeological evidence to suggest that Koreans have eaten dogs for thousands of years.

They say it is part of the culture - and the reason why many Koreans, mostly older men, eat spicy dog soup or poshintang during the summer.

Traditionally it is believed to be good for your health and for improving your sex life.

Eaten despite the ban

But the 1988 Olympics focused world attention on South Korea and generated embarrassing bad publicity when journalists discovered dog restaurants on the streets of the capital.

Like many rules in Korea, the ban is ignored. A group of National Assembly members are trying to lift the ban in parliament, but the government will not support them.

It is worried that animal rights protestors might campaign to boycott Korean goods.

The government says, however, it may consider removing restrictions after the tournament is over.

The promoters of the bill say the government should be more open and confident about Korean culture, and that it is a mistake to suppress a traditional Korean practice.

They say that by driving dog restaurants underground the animals are treated cruelly and are not killed hygienically.

Some people believe that the meat tastes better if the dog suffers before dying.

Experts say about three million dogs are killed and eaten in South Korea every year.

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