Alison Corcoran, chief marketing officer of the Humane Society International (HSI), has a childhood memory of South Korea, holding her father’s hands.
Her father, Donald Gregg, served as CIA station chief in South Korea from 1973 to 1975 and U.S. ambassador to South Korea from 1989 to 1993.
Currently based in Boston, Corcoran will be traveling to Korea this month for the portrait photo exhibition of puppy mill rescue dogs. The exhibition, which was held in Hollywood last year, will now take place in Korea.
Last year, The Korea Daily reported a series called “Ending Dog Meat Consumption,” exploring the international outcry against dog meat consumption and the adoption process of dogs rescued from South Korean dog farms.
To coincide with the exhibition of portraits of rescued dogs, The Korea Daily conducted an email interview with Corcoran to learn about her inspiration for actively participating in ending dog meat consumption.
The following is an edited excerpt of the interview:
-What are your memories of Korea?
“The first time my family lived in Korea was in the 1970s, and we brought our black Labrador retriever with us. I remember there was a curfew. Animals have always been a part of my memories of each country like that. I once lived in Myanmar because of my father. My mother brought home a goat. Living in different countries has helped me understand how animals are treated in different cultures.”
-What is the connection between animals and culture?
“Animals and their habitats are greatly affected by human activities. Whether they are treated cruelly, neglected, suffer, or receive care and compassion depends largely on human choices and actions. Therefore, the awareness of seeking to protect animals is closely linked to a sense of kindness and responsibility towards those who cannot protect themselves in our society. I was taught by my parents that I should always take care of the less fortunate and those in difficult situations. Animals also fall into this category of beings that I should take care of.”
-Can you give us more specific cases?
“One hundred million animals are bred and captured for fur. Endangered species are sold on the black market. Factory farming is also a problem. Animal and biodiversity loss is also significant. The suffering that humans inflict on animals today is unimaginable. The same goes for the dog meat industry. Humans can inflict devastating suffering on animals, but we also have the solutions to make things better. That’s why I came to work at HSI.”
-How did you become interested in ending the dog meat industry?
“I feel a deep connection to Korea. I used to live there, and it’s a very beautiful country. I love animals, especially dogs, but in Korea in the 1970s when I lived there, dog meat was a very common food. I became interested from then on. Later, when my father became an ambassador, I lived in Korea again in the 1990s. Even then, I noticed that there was a lot less support for dog eating compared to the 1970s. Now, 30 years later, there is a real campaign to end dog eating in Korea. It was at this time that I decided to visit Korea again. If I go back to Korea after the exhibition, I hope it will be to celebrate the termination of the dog meat industry.”
-The issue of dog meat is still a controversial topic in Korea. What are your thoughts?
“Right now, Korean pop music, movies, art, and brands are being recognized internationally. However, with this global recognition comes the issue of eating dog meat. In reality, the majority of South Koreans do not eat dog meat, especially the younger generation. The demand for dog meat is almost non-existent, and considering the amount of suffering, image damage, and so on, dog eating is unnecessary. Given South Korea’s international standing, it is only natural that there is a social and political consensus to end dog eating.”
-A ban has been introduced in the Korean National Assembly.
“First lady Kim Keon-hee has reiterated her desire for a dog meat ban. Furthermore, it is encouraging to see bipartisan support from the ruling and opposition parties for a ban on dog meat consumption. It’s time to start the important discussions in earnest to end this cruel industry.”
-What was the message through the exhibition?
“The dog meat industry views dogs as dumb and soulless. They are wrong. Sophie Gamand’s portraits of dogs convey that message. It shows dogs with stories of near-death experiences on dog meat farms living as companions, surrounded by human love and bonds. She captures this in her photographs. Dogs have thoughts and feelings. It will remind you that animals are special as living beings.”
BY YEOL JANG [email@example.com]