SEOUL • South Korean President Moon Jae In yesterday welcomed a rescue dog to his official Blue House residence, delivering on a campaign promise to boost awareness of the fast-growing numbers of abandoned animals accompanying a surge in pet ownership.
Tori, a four-year-old black mixed breed, becomes the first shelter dog to attain the title of First Dog, joining Mr Moon's two other pets, a 10-year-old Korean-breed Pungsan dog called Maru and a former stray cat, Jjing Jing.
"As a society, we need to pay more attention to abandoned animals and care for them," Mr Moon told animal rights advocates at the welcome ceremony, his office said, adding that as many as 300,000 animals had been abandoned.
Like many shelter animals, Tori suffered the double stigma of being abandoned and having darker fur in a country that favours lighter- coloured animals as pets, and avoids those with black pelts out of superstition.
"Tori had to wait for two years to be adopted while his lighter-furred friends easily found new homes," said Mr Park Soyoun, president of Seoul-based animal shelter Coexistence of Animal Rights on Earth.
Before his rescue, Tori was kept on a short leash in a deserted farmhouse and fed on scraps. "We wish Tori all the best in the Blue House, unlike the nine dogs abandoned by former president Park Geun Hye in March after she was removed from office," added Mr Park.
Mr Moon's predecessor had faced criticism for leaving behind nine Korean Jindo breed dogs at the Blue House when she was removed from office.
Pet ownership in South Korea has grown rapidly, with nearly a quarter of all homes having one, but the trend has also boosted the flock of abandoned animals in shelters nationwide.