South Korean police brought criminal charges Wednesday against four village people for butchering and eating a neighborhood pet dog at their community hall, putting an end to a prolonged dispute over whether they should be punished.
Without detaining the four dog eaters, police sent the case to prosecutors for indictment. They were accused of violating an animal protection law that provides for a fine of 10 million won (8,532 US dollars) or a one-year prison term.
The case highlighted South Korea's controversial and deep-rooted culture of butchering dogs for meat and triggered an online debate.
The Old English Sheepdog raised by a 33-year-old woman surnamed Chae went missing on September 26 in a rural town in Iksan some 190 kilometers (117 miles) southwest of Seoul.
Chae found that the dog had been eaten by her neighbors at their village hall. With support from many internet community users, she asked the police to punish the four, insisting her dog was captured alive after being injured in a traffic accident.
Footages from security cameras showed the four carrying the dog onto a small truck, but they argued the dog was found dead.
Mindful of pressure from both animal rights activists and community residents, police have launched a cautious investigation using a metal detector and other modern equipment. With no decisive evidence, witnesses have provided conflicting testimonies.
South Korean rural towns are known for their strong community spirit, and residents in Iksan have largely opposed legal punishment of the dog eaters.
Eating dogs has settled as a Korean tradition for ages, but the population of eating dog meat has dropped dramatically in recent years thanks to an active campaign by animal lovers and growing public awareness of animal rights.
It has always been a hot issue, never leaving the center of debate for decades at home and abroad. Dog meat lovers and restaurants claim that eating dog is nothing different from eating beef, pork, or horse meat.
Activists want a complete halt to eating dog meat because the canines are bred in meat farms and slaughtered in a cruel and unhygienic way.
Aju News Lim Chang-won = email@example.com