For centuries, people have been eating dog meat—neither legal nor banned—in South Korea. Some 30 years ago, chef Oh Keum-il even traveled around North and South Korea, tasting everything from dog stew to dog taffy, to learn the craft of cooking dog. Today, however, customers aren't quite as interested in eating an animal many keep as pets. Oh, for example, served her last bowl of dog stew, or boshintang, this week, closing up South Korea's longest-running dog meat restaurant as young customers avoid the spot and animal rights activists protest her controversial meals.
Though an expert guesses up to 2.5 million dogs are eaten in South Korea each year, "there is too much generational gap in boshintang," says Oh. That's clear for a 30-year-old Korean woman who says she argues with her grandfather about the meal. "Whenever he saw my dog at home, he would say it's the size of one bowl of hot soup," she says. A butcher adds that "dog is not an industry with a long-term future," noting that about 800 restaurants serve it in Seoul, when 1,500 once did. It's sad to see the end of such a lengthy tradition, says Oh, who now plans to open a barbeque restaurant that serves beef instead.