April 17, 2023
SEOUL – First lady Kim Keon Hee said Saturday she hopes to see South Korea and France working together on strengthening animal rights, a topic Kim has been pushing for wider debate as part of efforts to deliver on President Yoon Suk Yeol’s pledge to ban dog meat consumption.
At a meeting with French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, Kim referred to a French animal rights law taking effect next year. The law bans pet stores from selling pets unless they are stray animals. Colonna said respect for animals is enshrined in the French constitution, which says they have emotion.
Following the talks, they took part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the reopening of the recently renovated French Embassy in Seoul, Yoon’s office said in a statement. The French foreign minister kicked off her two-day trip to Seoul on Friday by meeting with Yoon to discuss a Group of Seven meeting scheduled for May in Hiroshima, Japan. Korea has been invited to attend it.
The French foreign minister invited Yoon and Kim to visit France, the statement added, saying Kim felt “exceptional attachment” to the embassy since a Korean was the chief architect of the building established in 1962. Kim Joong-up, the Korean, had learned from Swiss French architecture pioneer Le Corbusier, one of many figures “born out of a diversity-embracing country, France,” according to Kim.
The talks on animal rights were the latest high-profile public appearance of the first lady who has openly committed herself to abolishing all types of dog meat consumption — a still pervasive local culinary tradition despite nationwide efforts to end it. In a rare bipartisan move, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have floated bills supporting a consumption ban.
Yoon, who once said the matter was up to personal choice, reversed his position, having promised in campaign pledges that he would push for a complete ban. Almost 9 in 10 Koreans said last year they do not intend to eat dog meat, in a survey of 2,000 adults commissioned by a local animal welfare group from October to November.