Feline Wanderers in South Korea

September 25, 2017

by Christy Kim Seoul Global High School 12th Grade

Try walking around the city of Seoul; You will encounter many feline wanderers around the corners or narrow blocks. About 200,000 stray cats are estimated to roam around Seoul. Many people like their cute faces, but their loud meowing and exponentially growing population is leading to a major social problem. Now, one must ask: Since when did so many cats appear on the roads? In 1970’s and 1980’s, South Korea was economically undeveloped. Countryside occupied most of the region, and majority of the citizens lived in detached dwellings where mice frequently emerged. Hence felines were raised in order to catch mice, and people gave food and shelter in compensation. However, as South Korea rapidly became urbanized, tremendous number of people moved their residence into apartments. Naturally, cats were abandoned because their roles were no longer needed in concrete-structured buildings.

Alarmed by the problems resulting from increasing number of stray cats, the South Korean government attempted two methods to decrease cat population: extermination and neutering. The government first tried extermination, yet the protests from animal rights activists changed the government’s approach to “trap-neuter-return programs”. “Trap-neuter-return program” is a program which includes trapping cats, neutering them, and returning them back to the city. Many citizens consider this method as reasonable, yet there seems to be no perfect answer because this program also lays many drawbacks. The advocates of the program emphasize that the neutering is effective in controlling cat population without harming the cats. On the other hand, opponents strongly assert that the surgery requires high cost ($88 per cat), and cats are provided with deficient recovery time, which leads to ineffectiveness of surgery.

As the stray cat population in South Korea has grown exponentially, finding a solution to deal with the increasing population became a necessary task for Koreans. Many people complain of the inconveniences caused by catsㅡripped garbage bag, loud noisesㅡbut they have to be aware that it is the people who contributed to the stray cat population in Korea. Recently, a livestream of a stray cat feeding station caused a viral reaction among Koreans. It started when Koo Eun-Je put some leftover fish for a stray cat near his mother-in-law’s house. The show is called “Cats Meok Bang.” Meok Bang is a Korean term in which people eat food in front of web cameras for the audiences. Such tools like this video help to connect stray cats and people. The important factor in solving the major problemㅡstray cats in Koreaㅡwill be creative method and tolerative mind towards the cats.

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