December 09, 2015 08:40
There has been a noticeable increase in the number of Pyongyang residents who own dogs over the last three to four years, a source said Sunday. Pets are still a rarity in the isolated country, where animals including dogs are mostly for eating.
The source, a local who was traveling to China, said pet owners are mostly women who want to flaunt the money they made in open-air markets by keeping small decorative dogs.
The source said small or toy breeds are given as gifts to relatives, and some businesses hand them out to workers as holiday presents. They can be bought in department stores as well as open-air markets in Pyongyang and are primarily imported from China.
A Maltese, Chihuahua or Papillon costs between US$40 and $100. As the pet market expands, party officials are collaborating with traders to import and sell them.
Another source said North Koreans do not feed their dogs pet food but give them food from the dinner table.
Pet ownership was long banned in North Korea due to its decadent image but quietly permitted since 1989. Former leader Kim Jong-il used to give pets to high-ranking officials as gifts, and they paraded them as status symbols.
This made pet ownership fashionable in the capital and led to the creation of trading companies that specialized in the import of dogs. Authorities banned pet ownership again in 2011 citing health concerns, but current leader Kim Jong-un tacitly permitted it again.
Intelligence officials here say Kim recently imported dozens of European dogs as well as dog food, veterinary drugs and other pet products.
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