Friday, July 9, 2021

You Don't Eat Dog Meat! Are you a Catholic?

The Catholic Times in one of its columns written by a journalist emeritus gives us some background on eating dog meat in Korea. China is the biggest consumer, but Vietnam is also a well-known dog-eating country. Many are the countries that have no difficulty with the menu and they include some countries of the West. The journalist gives us his own experience as a Catholic who does not eat dog meat.
"Are you a Catholic?" All the eyes at the table turned their heads and looked at the writer with the question. He ordered another meat dish and said: "I don't eat dog meat". The group around the table looked at him with surprise... When he first encountered this situation after baptism, he almost felt as if sin had been revealed.

He mentions a time when lunch was being served at the end of an event, attended by more than 200 believers. The host grabbed the microphone and announced: "Everyone, please be happy, 'Boshintang' (Korean word for dog meat)  will be served. Even before the end of the sentence, cheers burst out. The host went on to ask the brothers to raise their hands if they didn't eat 'bosintang'. The people who raised their hands were only four and he was one of them; this was a great surprise to him.

"What made Catholics especially enjoy 'boshintang' in Korea?" He looked for data and asked around, and it was roughly summarized as follows.

Boshintang was a summer health food that was enjoyed not only by ordinary people but also by aristocrats during the Joseon Dynasty. In particular, people ate a lot of dog meat that was relatively easy to get during the Japanese Invasion of Korea, the Japanese colonial era, and the Korean War. For the same reason, dog meat served as a major source of protein when Catholics were persecuted and hiding in the mountains during the Joseon Dynasty.

Catholics are no longer persecuted, and there is plenty of good protein nutrition in society. Nevertheless, they still look for 'boshintang'. This is because dog meat is a symbolic food that gave them energy during hard times. It is also in line with the identity of Korean Catholics, with their spirit of martyrdom. This symbolism has hardened into a practice that is hard to change. For this reason, those who do not eat 'boshintang' are either not Catholics or are still less Catholic according to our writer.

The summer season for 'bosintang' is here again. However, the atmosphere of visiting 'boshintang' eating places has decreased significantly in the past decade. Even in downtown Seoul, many 'bosintang' restaurants got rid of their signs. In the past, ahead of the "86 Asian Games" and the "88 Seoul Olympics," the government drove out the 'bosintang' restaurants from downtown city streets in consideration of overseas public opinion. Controversy over 'boshintang's food culture' also intensified.

There is no need for that now. The 'boshintang food culture', which has caused so much controversy, has subsided. Generational change seems to be the most important cause. Today's young people in their 20s and 30s are far from the 'boshintang' food culture. Rather, they are much more familiar with pets such as dogs and cats as family members. Sooner or later, when they play a role as a social backbone, the signboards of the 'bosintang' restaurants will disappear altogether.
In summer, people who used to visit 'bosintang' restaurants like some kind of ceremony are now rare. Even if 'boshintang' has a place in the history of Korean Catholicism, it is only a custom after all not the truth: "Everything that is not the truth is impermanent and will continue to change." As such, the 'bosintang food culture', with its connection with Korean Catholics, is also changing.
When we look at the decline of 'bosintang', we think of various phenomena in the church. Fundamentalism embraces and doesn't want to change any of the customs of the past, that have nothing to do with truth, and rejects those who think differently on the subject with hostility. This attitude, and way of thinking with blind zeal, is turning away from the "signs of the times" the church has set for itself and is not acting wisely.

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