Better Protection for Animals in South Korea

A Pomeranian dog
A Pomeranian dog (source)

The way the law sees animals is set to change in South Korea. Until now, they have been considered objects and the possessions of their owners. Although there are laws against animal cruelty, it has been difficult to use them against abusive animal owners until now. For example, in 2018, when a man in the southern city of Busan was annoyed by his pet dog, he made his kids bury it alive. The Pomeranian dog was almost dead by the time it was rescued. The man, however, escaped punishment under the current law.

When the new law is passed, which is expected in September, animals will be considered ‘beings’ with a right to protection and better treatment. South Korea will join 32 other countries in recognizing animal sentience - the first country in Asia to do so.

There are an estimated 6 million pet dogs and 2.4 million pet cats in South Korea. As pet ownership has increased over recent years, so has the number of cases of animal abuse (914 in 2019) and abandonment (130,401 in 2020). Supporters of the new law hope it will improve the way animals are treated. Another possible outcome of the law may be life insurance packages for pets.


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Worksheet with activities


Hear the article spoken:

Useful Language

  • Cruelty (n) - actions that cause suffering
  • Abusive (adj) - treating someone badly, including with physical violence
  • Bury (v) - to put something in the ground and cover it
  • Being (n) - a living thing
  • Sentience (n) - the ability to feel things
  • Estimated (adj) - an informed guess, an approximate count
  • Abandonment (n) - being left alone


Discuss the following questions with your partner(s).

  1. Do you have a pet? If so, please talk about it. If you don’t have a pet, would you like to have one? What kind?
  2. Some people consider their pet to be a member of their family. Can you understand this way of thinking?
  3. Do animals have feelings and thoughts like humans do? What, if anything, is different about their thoughts and feelings?
  4. What do you think about cruelty to animals?
  5. How should people that hurt animals be punished?
  6. What is the best thing to do if a pet is annoying you?
  7. Why do some people abandon their pets?
  8. In your opinion, is the new law in South Korea necessary or unnecessary?
  9. What is the difference between pets and other 'things' that people ‘own’?
  10. Would you consider getting life insurance for a pet? How much would you be willing to pay?