Puppy in the pink (May 2000).
(Please read this before you copy our photos or text.)

Korea hasn't quite caught up with America yet when it comes to pets. But the Koreans who do live with animals tend to go for dogs rather than cats.

Size matters, though -- a lot. This probably figures in a country that crams the populations of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania onto a piece of land about the size of Indiana. Medium and large dogs are put to work as guards or (I'm sorry to say) end up in the stew pot as boshintang. What Koreans want for pets instead are small, purebred dogs. And they dote on them, carrying them around like babies and grooming them fastidiously. Check out the pink ears on the pup above.

If you have a dog, you know how much cleanup they take. I'm not just talking about pooper scoopers. In and out, in and out, they track in mud and dirt by the cubic meter. This has to be torture for Koreans, who try to keep their homes spotless. (Maybe that's why they carry their dogs everywhere.)

In high-tech Japan, where they're at least as fussy about cleanliness, the answer is bizarre electromechanical robot dogs. Korea's answer is lower-tech: dog cafes. No, these are not boshintang restaurants. Think internet cafe, but with pooches instead of PCs.

But for the most part, Koreans simply deal with the extra chores and expense. That's the price you (usually) pay for companionship. And who knows -- maybe as they think more of dogs as pets, they'll think of them less as food.

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