Companies in Korea often organize group trips for employees as a social exercise. Hiking trips are standard, and employees might get free gear out it, like a winter jacket or hiking boots. My wife got a pair of joggers for her company hiking trip in April, 2010. As usual, everything was laid on for staff--the accommodation, the schedule, the booze, the food. They even got Friday off work. But it's not always as fun filled as it sounds, as my wife found out.
On the Friday morning, she and her co-workers headed south on buses to Jeolla Province. After arriving, they went hiking on a mountain there. They were scheduled to stay over night and visit a Buddhist temple the next day. Late Friday night my wife rang. She was pretty annoyed about something else scheduled that no one had bargained for--dog meat for dinner.
The president of the company had ordered a restaurant to serve up three dogs for the dinner, which may have been killed just for the occasion. No one was consulted about it. Dog was the main course for dinner and that was that. Other than that the only other meat option was pork.
My wife refused to have any part of the dog eating and ate bean soup instead. She let everyone know she wasn't impressed. Others turned the dog dish down as well, such as her team manager, who has a pet dog at home and felt uncomfortable. Most of the coworkers, however, men and women alike, ate their fill of dog.
What added to my wife's annoyance was that this dog eating was something her colleagues could have done at another time. Those interested in it could have organized to eat dog another weekend in Seoul just by themselves. Why were all employees give little choice it?
Well, the company president, who was once high up in the banking industry, is from the old school. He is a typical old-style Korean boss who rules according to whim and expects all employees to automatically agree with him. No doubt he saw it as a treat to lay on dead dog for dinner and assumed he was impressing everyone.
This guy wants to hang on for another term as president, but my wife can't wait for him to go. She had a run in with him years back over sexual harassment by a friend of his, a male manager. Since then he's withheld her bonuses. But that's another story. She's never like him and I don't blame her. Let's hope the old bastard doesn't get another term at the helm.
So here in this single example of a company outing--one among the thousands that would go on in Korea each year--we see revealed an aspect of dog meat culture in Korean society. In this one example, three nameless dogs lived terrible lives and were killed for an evening of human gluttony, and it was all paid for with company profits. It is an option open to all company managers and government department officials.
What this incident illustrates is a mentality among some circles in Korean society that dog meat is some kind of treat, something to eat on a special occasion. That mentality is being passed on from old bosses to company workers, from the older generation to the younger, and often it happens on social trips like the one described. That mentality and the presumption that dog eating is acceptable to all without question--served up whether you like it or not--is what the international community doesn't hear about.