The Seoul Agricultural & Marine Products Corporation, which runs Seoul's Garak Market in the Songpa area, has ordered all storekeepers to stop bringing their pets with them otherwise they will be fined 1 million won and their business will be suspended for a month. This is for health reasons.
The shopkeepers were forced to submit written promises to follow this order. Among the storekeepers is one who has a 12 year-old cocker spaniel. She brings him everyday to her shop and is heartbroken that she has to stop doing it.
Let's put this in perspective. Garak Market is one of the world's largest wholesale markets and handles 2.4 million tons of products every year. It has around 4,500 merchants and receives as many as 140,000 visitors each day. The market is a hub for around 30 percent of the agri-fisheries products distributed in Korea and it provides 50 percent of the agri-fisheries goods that people living in Seoul consume daily.
Pretty massive, yes? But this huge enterprise is putting all of its weight behind throwing peoples' pets out of their stores, and how many pets are we talking about? About 18 dogs. Hasn't the SAMPC got something better to do with its power and time?
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On November 14, 2009, KARA representatives met with the person in charge of this ridiculous order, Junsik Kim (02-3435-0424), to clarify what was going on.
The position of SAMPC in creating the order is as follows:
- It is necessary because of many civil applications.
- It is necessary for better public hygiene.
KARA asked him to show the received civil applications against pets, but he said that he did not have any documents. He explained that any complaints were accepted at a Dasan Call Center and no documents are kept because they are handled immediately. (Later KARA checked if the Dasan Call Center accepted any civil applications against pets. It had no record because the call center transferred all related applications to SAMPC as soon as it received them. Thus, the tracking of complaints and any follow-up evaporates into thin air.)
KARA then asked Mr. Kim about how pets and abandoned animals were being classified and how the number of dogs in Garak Market was arrived at. This is when KARA found out only 18 dogs were involved, one of which is an abandoned animal. A rather small number indeed for such a massive enterprise to concern itself with.
Can 18 pet dogs jeopardize the heath of a 543,451 square meter market place that people and produce from all over Korea end up at? Highly unlikely, and on top of that, the dogs we are talking about are kept in the stores with storekeepers--in their offices, for example, as in the image below where a home made dog kennel is circled.
SAMPC would appear to be guilty of heavy handedness. It is also bullying by forcing shopkeepers to sign agreements and threatening them with fines and the closure of their shops. Is it a government corporation or a gangster organization? Some officials are reported to have said that they would eat the shopkeepers' pets. Is this really how public servants are allowed to operate in Korea?
On the matter of stray cats, rumor has it that officers may kill all cats with poisoned fish cake. But if all cats disappeared, the market would be overrun with mice and rats in no time given all the garbage lying around--that is, garbage created by humans.
Seoul and the local Songpa-gu councils have carried out TNRs but the Corporation does not seem interested. There are thousands of street-cats who need TNR in the Garak Market area. Some days, you can see over 100 street-cats sitting on the market roofs. Shopkeepers joke that it is an amazing sight.
KARA walked around the market and in one place spotted a person vomiting and on two occasions saw men urinating in the street. It would seem, then, there are more urgent issues concerning public hygiene at Garack Market than pet dogs.
KARA's manager put it to the SAMPC that the case should be handled under the animal protect law because moving all pets out of Garak Market might cause more pet abandonment.
The last word from Mr. Lee is that no one will be putting down poisoned food to kill cats. He has also promised to discuss the cat issue with Seoul and Songpa-gu Council. He said that he will stop any cohesion to force shopkeepers to sign written agreements, that is, if it has been happening. Of course, SAMPC is not about to admit it.