February 27, 2023 08:33
More than 6 million Korean households have pets, and rising inflation is taking a toll on their bank accounts as prices of dog and cat food and other products go through the roof.
But manufacturers are also shamelessly cashing in on the craze for pet ownership. One toothbrush manufacturer sells a set of four cat toothbrushes for W8,300 but a set of four toothbrushes for humans at half the price (US$1=W1,305). Another retailer sells a 120 g box of dried pollack cubes for cats for W16,000, while a 100g box of dried Pollack cubes for people costs W6,700.
"If you're worried about feeding your cats dried fish for humans due to the high salt content, just soak it in water first," a staffer suggested. At one pet store, a large towel retails for W28,900, but elsewhere the same product for humans can be purchased at just 60 percent of that price.
Some pet owners do suspect that they are being had. One 26-year-old office worker who owns a dog said, "I never know how effective these advertised pet nutrients are, compared to their high price tags."
It is up to retailers to set the prices of their products, but should the Fair Trade Commission or Korea Consumer Agency inspect them? Lee Eun-hee at Inha University said, "The pet industry is growing, and specific regulations need to be introduced to control soaring prices."
But the craze shows no sign of abating. Cruise ships, trains and hotels now have pet-friendly zones. The owner of a rental cottage in South Jeolla Province said, "I spent W70 million planting a garden in my Airbnb last month so guests can bring their pets, and a lot of guests do."
A growing number of businesses are letting staff bring their pets to work -- 146 companies according to job search portal Saramin. And of course photo studios taking pet portraits, with or without their owners, are thriving. Some new homes even come with their own pet toilets.
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