Animal Law in South Korea
Animal Protection Act
The major legal instrument regulating animal welfare in South Korea is the Animal Protection Act passed in 1991. The purpose of this act is to “prescribe matters necessary to prevent animal abuse and to properly protect and manage animals, and thus contribute to protecting the lives of animals and enhancing their safety and welfare as well as developing national ethos, such as respect for their life.”
It is prohibited in South Korea to conduct cruelty against vertebrates, i.e, cattle, horses, dogs, cats, rabbits, chickens, goats, sheep, deer, foxes, ducks, excluding fish, crustaceans, etc. The act of cruelty is understood as killing an animal in public or in the presence of an animal of the same species with cruel methods; injuring an animal with a tool; collecting fluid from the body of a live animal; injuring an animal for entertainment; or causing any type of injury the conduct of which is not approved by the Ordinance of the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries. Such acts are exempts from the legislation if the conduct is done to prevent or treat a disease, experimentation, or “folk games.” Cruelty to animals in South Korea is punished by imprisonment with labor up to 1 year or a 10 000 000 won (1000 won = 0.85 US dollars). The abandonment of an animal is punished by a fine in the amount of up to 1 000 000 won. The original law imposed obligations on owners and keepers of animals to provide them with appropriate food and water and to endeavor to ensure that animals receive adequate rest and care.
Chapter III on animal testing of the Animal Protection Act provides that alternatives to animals shall be considered, animals less sensitive to pain shall be used where possible, requires anesthetics, prohibits using lost or abandoned animals which have served humans. According to the Animal and Plant Quarantine Agency of South Korea in 2016, 2 878 907 animals were used in research, among which were rodents (91.4%), fish (4.1%), birds (1.9%), rabbits (1.3%), and other vertebrate species (1.3%).
With regard to farmed animals, the legislation of South Korea requires the registration of animals and provides the regulation regarding the transportation of animals, as well as requires animals to be slaughtered by methods specified by the Ordinance of the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries, which are stunning or gas. The government of South Korea issues a comprehensive animal welfare plan every 5 years, including those issues related to animal farming.
In 2014, South Korea received a D on the World Animal Protection Index.
Apart from the Animal Protection Act, South Korea has the Wildlife Protection and Management Act that prohibits the cruel killing of wild animals by poisoning; injuring captive animals; etc. Besides, it is prohibited to capture, collect, release, naturalize, process, distribute, keep, export, import, remove, and bring in of endangered species, as well as taking of non-endangered wildlife from the wild, except for aquatic animals. The purpose of this Act is to “prevent the extinction of wildlife by systematically protecting and managing wildlife and the habitats thereof, to maintain the equilibrium of the ecosystem by promoting biodiversity, and at the same time to ensure a healthy natural environment in which wildlife coexists with human beings.” Violation of Article 8 of the Wildlife Protection and Management Act is punished by imprisonment with work of up to 3 years or a fine in the amount of up to 30 000 000 won.
South Korea has been a member of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) since 1993.
One of the main issues related to animals that exist in South Korea is dog meat consumption and farming. Animal consumption is in general very common in the country, and vegetarianism along with veganism is rare. Over 2 million dogs are killed for human consumption, pets are stolen and sold, killed with cruel methods, such as electrocution, beating in violation of the Animal Protection Act. Currently, animal rights activists are working on shutting down dog farms and prevent canine slaughter across the country. In October 2019, Seoul has officially become a dog meat-free city.