'McDog' Restaurant Chain Challenges McDonald's

Reuters (South Korea); 8th June 1997

BRIGITTE BARDOT, self-declared protector of all creatures cute and furry, may have another fight ahead with dog-eating Koreans.

A South Korean businessman has recently launched a chain of restaurants specialising in delicacies made from dog meat.

Although the consumption of dog meat is a centuries-old tradition in Korea, canines are not officially recognised as a consumable food and there are no regulations governing the slaughter, distribution and sale of dogs.

But the country's laws may soon have to be revised to catch up with common practice.

Last November, the Seoul Appellate Court overturned a lower court decision which fined a man five million won (HK$43,000) for selling dog meat.

The judge ruled that although dog meat was not categorised as a consumable meat by the Health and Welfare Ministry, it was widely eaten by Koreans and therefore could be considered "edible".

It did not take long for entrepreneur Cho Yong-sup to spot a new business opportunity.

Three weeks after the Appellate Court's decision, he ran newspapers advertisements offering franchises for the country's first chain of dog meat restaurants.

In 1986, the Government categorised dog meat, along with earthworms and slugs - also eaten as health tonics to help male stamina - as "unseemly food".

The Government, fearing negative publicity, banned its sale in urban areas during the 1988 Seoul Olympics. That drove the dog meat trade underground, with restaurant owners disguising boshin-tang - dog meat stew - as "health stew" or "four-season stew".

China Trading, the company behind the new restaurant chain, estimates there are now about 20,000 dog meat restaurants throughout the country.

It says one restaurant can rack up sales of 10 million won a day during peak dog-eating season from April to July.

China Trading - named, not after the country, but the Korean phrase meaning "there's a difference" - opened its first restaurant in April.

The menu includes the traditional dog stew as well as marinated sliced dog meat served sauteed or grilled, and parboiled dog meat slices served with cabbage.

Ten franchised restaurants have opened in the past two months, and the company expects to open 100 throughout the country by the end of the year.

Mr Cho says it is more than just a business venture.

"Foreign restaurant chains like McDonald's are taking over our food culture. I want to help keep our traditional foods alive."

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