Sat, Aug 27, 2016 - Page 6 News List

Dogs a big draw at zoo Kim Jong-un gifted Pyongyang


North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s latest gift to the residents of Pyongyang, a renovated central zoo, is pulling in thousands of visitors each day with a slew of attractions ranging from typical zoo fare such as elephants, giraffes, penguins and monkeys to a high-tech natural history museum with displays showing the solar system.

However, one of the most popular attractions might come as a surprise to foreign visitors. Just across from the hippopotamus pen and the reptile house, dozens of varieties of dogs — including schnauzers, German shepherds, shih tzus and Saint Bernards — are on display in the “dog pavilion.”

One, a King Charles spaniel, was presented as a gift to Kim’s father, Kim Jong-il, by “the US company Tapco” in 1995.

According to plaques above their pens, which — dog lovers will be relieved to know — are spacious and clean, Kim Jong-un himself chipped in by giving the zoo its schnauzers, poodles, German shepherds and a Chihuahua.

Former South Korean president Kim Dae-jung, who pursued a sort of detente with Pyongyang called the “Sunshine Policy,” presented the North with a Korean Jindo that now resides in the zoo.

North Korea’s own national dog — yes, it has one, the puffy white Pung San breed — lives in a pen next to it.

Although somewhat shocking to those accustomed to thinking of dogs as companions or household pets, the zoo display might actually reflect an increasingly fond attitude toward dogs in North Korea. While dog meat is still a common dish in the North, and in China and South Korea as well, a small, but growing number of North Koreans are keeping canines as pets.

People walking dogs on leashes can now be seen from time to time in Pyongyang and some other cities. And instead of suggesting recipes, signs in the dog pavilion describe the best way to train a pet dog, suggesting that patience and kindness work better than harsh words.

Aside from the dogs, another unique feature of the zoo is the posting of signs above many of the animal habitats noting where the “gift animals” came from — which is intended to remind visitors of how much North Korea’s leaders are loved and respected by leaders abroad. The signs also are meant to emphasize the benevolence of Kim Jong-un, who along with the dogs donated tigers, giraffes and many other animals to the zoo.

Pyongyang’s Korea Central Zoo dates back to 1959, when Kim Il-sung, the nation’s first leader and the grandfather of Kim Jong-un, ordered it built on the outskirts of the city.

According to an official history, the zoo started off with only 50 badgers. However, that same year it got its first “gift animals,” elephants donated by fellow socialist leader Ho Chi Minh of Vietnam.

Another “gift animal” elephant was donated by Laos. Zebras and ostriches at the zoo were donated to Kim Il-sung by the leader of Tanzania, and orangutans were donated by late Indonesian president Suharto. The mayor of Kyoto, Japan, gave the old zoo a jaguar.

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