From pest to pets - Commoditization of rescued animals by Korean animal shelters
(University of Exeter)
Paper short abstract:
Based on a thirteen-month ethnographic fieldwork at three animal shelters in Seoul, this paper explores how using digital images allows South Korea's animal welfare community to commoditize stray cats and dogs, usually perceived as a nuisance and/or food source, by turning them into potential pets.
Paper long abstract:
In 1988, the South Korean government decided to hide every dog meat restaurant in Seoul in order to avoid potential diplomatic incidents during the Olympics. This marked a turning point in South Koreans' attitudes towards the consumption of dogs within their own society, oscillating, from then on, between guilt and national pride. Since then, in addition to this international coercion, the Korean dog meat market has also been pressurised by a growing number of national organisations. Indeed, since the 1950's, Korea has been undergoing frantic social transitions and while cats and dogs were still consumed as food, animals have also increasingly become parts of Korean households, thus making them both meat and pets among Korean society. As violent procedures for killing cats and dogs are often regarded as ancestral cultural practices in Korea, in the last twenty years, Korean animal welfare organisations have emerged to rescue thousands of animals every year, fight the government's inaction towards animal abuse and develop pet culture among urban South Korean populations.
Based on a thirteen-month ethnographic fieldwork at three animal shelters in Seoul, this paper explores how the use of digital images in particular has allowed me to contribute to the South Korean animal welfare community's commoditization of stray cats and dogs, thereby helping them turn social 'pest' into pets.
Relational resolutions: The role of digital images in ethnographic fieldwork