More than 21,000 North Koreans have defected to the affluent South Korea since the Korean War. But last week was the first ever of a canine defection.
One or two dogs were among 21 boat people seeking refuge, according to Yonhap News Agency citing multiple sources. Government ministries and military refused ABC News’ request to confirm the exact number of dogs, saying the group was “under interrogation.”
Many are puzzled why the defectors would have brought along the dogs at the risk of being caught in case they barked.
The extended family of three generations were found adrift in a five-ton boat equipped with a modified engine taken from a farm cultivator and a Chinese GPS navigator.
Working as crab fishermen and harvesting oysters, the family traded their catch in the black market with Chinese fisheries, reported Chosunilbo Newspaper, where they heard stories about the wealth in South Korea.
The leader in the family prepared an exodus for three years. The wooden boat meant for five persons carried 21 plus at least one dog and drifted southwest across the maritime border in three days.
With an exception of its leader Kim Jong-Il, who is known to favor French poodles and German shepherds, North Korea is no pet-loving country as they can barely feed its people. They do like dogs, however, as source of protein. One of the most prized restaurants in Pyongyang is a “dan-go-gi” place where mongrels are cooked, steamed, fried into soup and meat.
“The mongrel could have followed its owner or the owner cared for it so much that he could have not left it behind,” wrote Yonhap quoting an anonymous government bureaucrat. “Or the defectors could have brought it as ‘edible’ source in case of a long sea journey.”
The number of North Korean refugees coming down south via seawaters has risen significantly this year, with a total of 65 found in the West Sea of the Korean peninsula alone. On the same day last week, another North Korean man was found on a small wooden panel attached on an automobile tire.
”It is absolute proof of Kim Jong-Il’s regime cracking down on its people as never before and the people continue to risk lives for freedom. But the reality is horrifying,” said Kim Yong-Hwa, chairman of North Korea Refugees Human Rights Association.
He witnessed a man shot to death in China who apparently swam across the Tumen River bordering North Korea last month. “I heard the gun shot and when I looked down from a hill, a man was crawling by the riverbank and on the other side of the river were North Korean soldiers carrying guns.” The mobile phone video that Kim shot shows seven Chinese soldiers watching the man die.