A flavor out of favor: Dog meat fades in S. Korea

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A flavor out of favor: Dog meat fades in S. Korea
In this photo taken on Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014, a man plays with his his best friend at a dog cafe in Seoul, South Korea. For more than 30 years, chef and restaurant owner Oh Keum-il built her expertise in cooking one traditional South Korean delicacy: dog meat. Animal rights activists protest nearby, urging people not to eat man’s best friend. Young South Koreans grow up watching TV shows about raising puppies and other pets, which sapped appetite for dog meat, said Oh. (AP Photo/Joyce Lee)
Animal rights activists in a cage stage a campaign opposing eating of dog meat by South Koreans in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2012. Aug. 7 is the day South Koreans eat healthy foods such as dog meat in belief it would help them survive heat during summer. The letters on cards read " Don't eat Dog Meat." (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - AUGUST 07: Members of Coexistence for Animal Rights confine themselves in a cage as a protest against eating dog meat on August 7, 2012 in Seoul, South Korea. Dog meat is a traditional dish in Korea dating back to the Samkuk period (period of the three kingdoms BC 57 - AD 668), and July 15 is the day on which some South Koreans eat dog meat in the belief it will help them endure the heat of the summer months. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
In this photo taken on Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014, a chef and owner Oh Keum-il of Daegyo, the dog meat restaurant, shows how to cook for dog meat at her restaurant in Seoul, South Korea. Daegyo, the famous dog meat restaurant she opened in a Seoul alley in 1981, will serve its last bowl of boshintang, or dog stew, on Friday, a reflection of the challenges facing a trade that is neither legal nor explicitly banned under South Korean laws governing livestock and food processing. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
In this photo taken on Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014, an employee of Daegyo, the dog meat restaurant, shows a dog meat before serve to customers at a restaurant in Seoul, South Korea. Daegyo, the famous dog meat restaurant she opened in a Seoul alley in 1981, will serve its last bowl of boshintang, or dog stew, on Friday, a reflection of the challenges facing a trade that is neither legal nor explicitly banned under South Korean laws governing livestock and food processing. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
In this photo taken on Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014, a chef and owner Oh Keum-il of Daegyo, the dog meat restaurant, stands outside of her restaurant in Seoul, South Korea. When she was in her twenties, Oh traveled around South Korea to learn dog meat recipes from each region. During a period of South Korean reconciliation with North Korea early last decade, she went to Pyongyang as part of a business delegation and tasted a dozen different dog dishes, from dog stew to dog taffy, all served lavishly at the Koryo, one of the North’s best hotels. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
In this photo taken on Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014, a chef and owner Oh Keum-il of Daegyo, the dog meat restaurant, shows how to cook for dog meat at her restaurant in Seoul, South Korea. When she was in her twenties, Oh traveled around South Korea to learn dog meat recipes from each region. During a period of South Korean reconciliation with North Korea early last decade, she went to Pyongyang as part of a business delegation and tasted a dozen different dog dishes, from dog stew to dog taffy, all served lavishly at the Koryo, one of the North’s best hotels. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
Animal rights activists in a cage stage a campaign opposing eating of dog meat by South Koreans in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2012. Aug. 7 is the day South Koreans eat healthy foods such as dog meat in belief it would help them survive heat during summer. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
South Korean animal rights activists appear with their faces painted to look like dogs during a campaign opposing the consumption of dog meat by South Koreans in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, July 14, 2009. Many South Koreans traditionally eat dog meat on July 14, with the belief that it boosts stamina and virility and will help them endure the heat of summer. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
South Korean animal rights activists stage a campaign opposing the consumption of dog meat by South Koreans in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, July 14, 2009. Many South Koreans traditionally eat dog meat on July 14, with the belief that it boosts stamina and virility and will help them endure the heat of summer. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
South Korean animal rights activists with a dog hold a protest against South Korea's culture of eating dog meat in front of a local restaurant where a dog meat tasting session is being held in Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, May 25, 2002. The session was held by Ahn Yong-keun dubbed "Dr. Dog meat", a food and nutrition professor at Chungchong University. The activists have warned the Korean habit will taint its image ahead of the 2002 FIFA World Cup. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
A dog joins South Korean animal rights activists during a campaign opposing South Korean dietary habit of eating dog meats in Seoul South Korea, Tuesday, March 25, 2008. Seoul will propose the central government that dogs should be categorized as livestock in order to properly regulate the trade of dog meat and strengthen sanitation inspections, local newspaper reported. The Korean read " Don't eat me." (AP Photo/ Lee Jin-man)
A South Korean animal rights activist confines herself with dogs in a cage during a campaign opposing South Korea's culture of eating dog meat in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, July 18, 2008. July 19 is the day South Koreans eat healthy foods such as dog meat in belief it would help them survive heat during summer. (AP Photo/ Lee Jin-man)
A South Korean animal rights activist and a dog perform in a caldron during a campaign opposing eating dog meat by South Koreans near a Dog Meat market in Seongnam, south of Seoul, Sunday, July 27, 2008. Traditionally, July 29 is a day for some South Koreans to eat healthy foods to survive summer heat. Dog meat is considered one of the healthy foods for those South Koreans. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
South Korean animal rights activists with their body painted like dogs perform during a campaign opposing eating of dog meats by South Koreans in Seoul, Wednesday, July 25, 2007. Many South Koreans traditionally eat dog meat on July 25 in belief it will help them survive the heat of the season, as well as boost stamina and virility. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
South Korean member of the People for The Ethical Treatment of Animals, wearing dog masks, protest in a cage during a campaign opposing South Korean eating dog meats in front of the government complex building in Seoul, Friday, July 15, 2005. Today is the day South Koreans eat dog meat in belief it would help them survive heat during summer. (AP Photo /Ahn Young-joon).
Yang Soon-Ja stirs a large pot of dog soup at her restaurant in Seoul in preparation for a visit by students from the Lycee Francais De Seoul Friday, April 12, 2002 in Seoul. The French students came to try dog meat after having a class debate on the Korean practice of eating dog which has been viewed critically by animal rights activists in France and elsewhere in the West. (AP Photo/Ed Wray)
Two South Koreans who refused to be identified, eat sausage made of dog meat during a dog meat tasting session in Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, May 25, 2002. The session was held by Ahn Yong-keun dubbed "Dr. Dog meat", a food and nutrition professor at Chungchong University. Animal rights activists have warned the Korean habit will taint its image ahead of the 2002 FIFA World Cup. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man).
A protester carrying a dog displays a t-shirt condeming the eating of dog meat in South Korea during a protest by the 'In Defense of Animals' rights group in Seoul on July 13, 2013. According to IDA South Korea's dog and cat meat industry is worth some two billion US dollars annually slaughtering two and-a-half million dogs used to make a broth-based dish called 'gaesoju'. AFP PHOTO / Ed Jones (Photo credit should read Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - AUGUST 07: Members of Coexistence for Animal Rights confine themselves in a cage as a protest against eating dog meat on August 7, 2012 in Seoul, South Korea. Dog meat is a traditional dish in Korea dating back to the Samkuk period (period of the three kingdoms BC 57 - AD 668), and July 15 is the day on which some South Koreans eat dog meat in the belief it will help them endure the heat of the summer months. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
South Korean animal rights activists lie in cages as part of a demonstration against the local custom of eating dog meat, near a street market selling dog in Seongnam, south of Seoul, on July 18, 2010. Dog meat is a traditional dish in Korea eaten to cope with the summer heat. The Korean sign read 'Dogs feel pain like people' AFP PHOTO / PARK JI-HWAN (Photo credit should read PARK JI-HWAN/AFP/Getty Images)
South Korean animal rights activists with her face painted like a dog during a demonstration against the local custom of eating dog meat in Seoul on July 14, 2009. The cuisine has been popular among Koreans especially in the summer season. AFP PHOTO/JUNG YEON-JE (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
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By YOUKYUNG LEE

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - For more than 30 years, chef and restaurant owner Oh Keum-il built her expertise in cooking one traditional South Korean delicacy: dog meat.

In her twenties, Oh traveled around South Korea to learn dog meat recipes from each region. During a period of South Korean reconciliation with North Korea early last decade, she went to Pyongyang as part of a business delegation and tasted a dozen different dog dishes, from dog stew to dog taffy, all served lavishly at the Koryo, one of the North's best hotels.

She adapted famous dishes to include dog meat, replacing beef with dog in South Korea's signature meat and rice dish bibimbap. But the 58-year-old's lifelong experience with a food eaten for centuries in Korea is about to become history.

Daegyo, the famous dog meat restaurant she opened in a Seoul alley in 1981, will serve its last bowl of boshintang, or dog stew, on Friday, a reflection of the challenges facing a trade that is neither legal nor explicitly banned under South Korean laws governing livestock and food processing.

Opposite views on dogs as either for eating or petting have co-existed in the country's recent history, feeding a controversy that becomes most bitter in the summer. On three "dog days," which are among the hottest times of the year, many South Koreans queue for the dish of shredded dog meat and vegetables in hot red soup, believing it gives strength to bear the heat.

Animal rights activists protest nearby, urging people not to eat man's best friend. The closure of Oh's restaurant, dubbed by a local newspaper as the "Holy Land of boshintang" and frequented by two former presidents, Lee Myung-bak and late Roh Moo-hyun, shows one view of dogs is gaining more traction among young South Koreans.

"There is too much generational gap in boshintang," said Oh. "There are no young customers."

Dogs are also food in countries such as China and Vietnam. The long tradition of eating the meat in South Korea is such that a respected 17th century book on Korean medicine extols its health benefits. But today it is an increasingly tough sell and a less attractive dining option for young South Koreans. Oh plans to reopen her restaurant as a Korean beef barbecue diner.

Animal rights groups have also highlighted that some of the 2 million or so dogs eaten in South Korea each year suffer painful and inhumane deaths.

Most young people eat chicken soup on a dog day and even those who eat dog tend to refrain from talking about it openly, according to Moon Jaesuk, a 32-year researcher who enjoyed eating dog meat before he moved to Seoul.

"There's a burden in a group of 10 or 20 people to suggest eating dog, like making a sexual joke," he said. "It's not easy to talk about eating dog when there are a lot of people."

Young South Koreans grow up watching TV shows about raising puppies and other pets, which sapped appetite for dog meat, said Oh.

Her restaurant used to sell as many as 700 bowls of dog stew a day in the 1980s. These days it is less than half that. Young people also enjoy a diverse dining culture unlike previous generations that came of age amid the poverty that followed the 1950-1953 Korean War.

Meanwhile, Nonghyup Economic Research Institute forecasts the pet business in South Korea to swell to 6 trillion won ($5.9 billion) by 2020, from 0.9 trillion won in 2012. It says one in five South Korean households have either a pet dog or cat.

Sometimes the differing perceptions of dogs become a source of family tension. Kim Dongyoung, 30, said she gets into fierce arguments with her grandfather over her lap dog.

"Whenever he saw my dog at home, he would say it's the size of one bowl of hot soup," Kim said. She recently pulled out of signing a lease for an apartment when she saw it was in the same building as a dog stew restaurant.

There is no official data on the dog meat industry, but people who raise dogs as livestock or supply dog meat to diners say its consumption is in decline.

Butcher Shin Jang-gun who supplies dog cuts to restaurants said the number of merchants in the dog meat trading business has shrunk to half of what it was. He keeps a list of between 700 and 800 restaurants in Seoul, some current and others potential clients, and believes there was once more than 1,500.

His father sold only dog meat for several decades. After Shin inherited the butcher shop in southern Seoul in 2002, he added goat meat to offset declining dog meat sales.

"Dog is not an industry with a long-term future," Shin said. "New generations don't eat a lot."

Choi Young-im, secretary general of an association of dog farmers, said dog meat, which used to be most popular after beef, pork and chicken, has been overtaken by duck but will remain a fixture on menus.

Choi estimated between 2 million and 2.5 million dogs are consumed in South Korea each year.

With one fewer dog meat restaurant in downtown Seoul, Oh feels sad that young people are losing touch with the tradition.

"Even now when I see young people at my restaurant, I feel so happy," she said.

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