We’re producing a documentary film called Compassion Soup: the End of Dog Meat in Korea to promote compassion instead of cruelty toward dogs in Korea.
About the Film
Each year over two million dogs are slaughtered by Korea’s unregulated dog meat industry often after enduring unbearable suffering. Especially during Bok-Nal through July and August, two-third of dogs are killed for Boshintang (dog meat soup). It is because many Koreans believe that Boshintang boosts their stamina and energy. That’s why it is often called a nutritious soup in Korea.
According to Thích Nhất Hạnh, the world re-known Vietnamese monk, however, what makes people healthy and happy is deeply related to what they eat. When people eat meat, in fact they are eating more than just a piece of protein but eating the fear, anger and sadness of the animal. Throughout the film we will explore what makes people’s mind and body truly healthy and happy: Boshintang or Compassion Soup?
The goal of the film is to reconnect Koreans with their compassionate true nature and inspire them to end the dog meat trade in Korea. For that, we need to build understanding, empathy and compassion in Korea and around the world.
The Dog Meat Trade in Korea
Dogs play a complex role in Korean society. On one hand, 10 million Koreans have dogs as their companion animals. On the other hand, over two million dogs are brutally raised and slaughtered for their meat. Some dogs live in luxury while others are tortured beyond most people’s imagination. Korea’s mixed views on dogs are also reflected in its ambiguous laws. It is illegal to process dog meat like other kind of food products because dogs are not livestock, yet it is still legal to raise and slaughter dogs for their meat.
Nonetheless, the voice against the dog meat trade has been rising not only internationally but also domestically. Younger generations are not as likely as older generations to embrace older cultural attitudes about dog meat and have different experiences with dogs than their parents. Many view dogs as companion animals, not something to eat. The phenomenon of the popularity of TV programs, movies or even webtoons about dogs, cats, and animal welfare is the reflection of such change.
In 1988, when Korea hosted the summer Olympics, the Korean government partially banned dog meat in Korean restaurants due to the international pressure. Now with Korea once again in the global spotlight hosting the 2018 winter Olympics, there is no better time to take it all the way and bring an end to the dog meat trade. Further, since Korea has a huge impact on its fellow countries such as China, Vietnam, and Philippines, both economically and culturally, a ban on dog meat in Korea will have an immense impact and a ripple effect throughout Asia. It’s time for Korea to harken back to its Buddhist roots and build a new future based on compassion.
Why this Film is Special?
Most other works addressing the dog meat trade focus on scenes of cruelty and oversimplify the issue to ‘bad versus good’. Our concern about this approach is that it vilifies Koreans and their culture, but does very little to improve the horrifying circumstances of the dog meat trade.
Criticizing dog meat consumers as barbaric simply won’t work as they will argue back with cultural relativism. The cow is sacred for some people in some countries, but here in the West, cow meat is one of the most consumed meats. How is slaughtering countless turkeys for Thanksgiving Day considered a tradition, but not that of Bok-Nal? Paradoxically, shaming Korean dog meat consumers has contributed to make dog meat advocates and nationalists raise their voice even stronger. While people are busy fighting with each other, the suffering of dogs continues. The change must happen inside Korea, by Koreans.
The documentary film, Compassion Soup, is special because it will focus on discovering the greatness of Koreans. Like the famous Aesop Fables, the Wind and the Sun, it is the sun and its warm light that takes off the cloak of the traveller, not the harshness of the wind. You can change someone’s actions by blame or punishments; but without true understanding of why that action is not right, real change won’t happen.
To end the dog meat trade, we need to build understanding, empathy and compassion in Korea and around the world. Only then will we see real progress toward replacing cruelty with compassion for dogs in Korea and for all other animals on earth. That’s why this documentary is so important.
Who is Making this Film
EK Park is the director of the documentary film and also the founder of Free Korean Dogs, a registered Canadian not-for-profit organization. EK is indeed the ideal candidate for taking this project on. Not only does she experience and understand both Korean and Western culture, but also brings the authenticity and unique perspective of an active animal rights advocate to the subject.
EK was born and lived in Korea for 30 years. She grew up in a small farm in a rural area and witnessed the cruel dog meat trade at first hand. In 2002 she moved to Canada and started living with a cat and two dogs. Learning to understand that animals also feel pain, joy, and happiness in their daily lives has completely transformed her core beliefs about all animals.
As a videographer/photographer and an animal rights activist, EK has been using her skills to help end animal suffering due to human ignorance, greed and neglect. In 2012, she produced the short documentary, Compassion in Action: Toronto’s Street Cats, which was played at the Toronto Humane Society and Toronto Animal Services on National Feral Cat Awareness Day and at ongoing workshops of Toronto Feral Cat Project. Since 2012, she has created more than thirty educational videos and interviews to raise public awareness for Toronto’s stray/feral cat issues and the Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program. EK is also a cat mom who takes care of several local stray/feral cat colonies.
Now it’s time for EK to be a voice for threatened dogs in Korea. In 2015, she founded Free Korean Dogs to help dogs rescued from the meat farms in Korea. Knowing that the “farmed” dogs were not likely to be adopted in their homeland because of the stigma of being raised to be dog meat, EK worked hard to build an international adoption program. For the last eight months she helped 10 rescue dogs find their forever loving homes in Canada and the US. For EK, making the documentary, Compassion Soup, is the only viable and irrefutable response to her personal experience.
The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for white, or women created for men . – by Alice Walker
Let’s Make this Film Happen
Through our crowd fundraising campaign we raised $12,756 USD. This helped us start the documentary here in Canada. But it costs a lot to shoot a feature film, especially in two languages across two countries in Canada and Korea. The production cost of Compassion Soup was estimated at $55,000 USD so we still need $42,244 USD. Here is a breakdown of the costs:
- Production: 44%
- Crew: 8%
- Equipment: 10%
- Transport: 5%
- Travel & Accomodation: 22%
- Legal & Accounting: 7%
- Adminitration: 4%
All funds raised for the documentary will be managed by Free Korean Dogs, a registered Canadian not-for-profit organization (Corporation #942567-5).
What if You Don’t Reach Your Goal?
We are completely committed to making this film, no matter what it takes. If we are unable to achieve our full fundraising target for this campaign, we will divide the project into multiple phases.
What if You Exceed Your Goal?
The rest of the funds raised will be used for international adoption of rescue dogs from dog meat farms in Korea, particularly for transportation and veterinary costs. Last year we rescued ten dogs from being slaughtered for their meat in Korea and found their forever homes in the US and Canada. Unlike small and cute pet dogs, these “meat” dogs are not likely to be adopted in Korea. By working closely with Korean animal activists and helping their rescue dogs find forever homes internationally, we help activists rescue more dogs from Korean dog meat farms. One of the challenges for rescuers is that the dogs they rescue have no place to go. Not only does this prevent rescuers from saving more dogs, but these dogs end up with living in shelters, often in very poor conditions. This is why international adoption is so important. Every single donation will be used carefully and mindfully to support rescue dogs in Korea.
Our Long Term Goals
- We plan to produce a DVD and send it to schools, universities, and community libraries in Korea for educational purpose. While changing the attitudes and views of older generations towards animals is hard, it is important to teach younger generations, who are the future of Korea, what it means to be human, by examining our relationships to animals and the impact of their own actions.
- Grassroots community screenings is a great way to create buzz online. We will work with animal organizations and rescue groups in Korea and offer the film as a tool to help with their campaigns to stop the dog meat trade.
- We cannot talk about the dog meat trade without mentioning two countries, China and Vietnam. We’ll organize community screenings with animal organizations and activists in China and Vietnam to raise the voice against the dog meat trade in Asia.
- Free Korean Dogs have followers worldwide. We’ll have grassroots community screenings for our supporters in their own countries.
- We will submit the documentary film to Korean and international film festivals, especially ones geared towards animals and nature such as Animal Film Festival, International Wildlife Film Festival, and Planet in Focus Film Festival.
An Endorsement from Dr. Johanna Booth
EK has volunteered literally thousands of hours of her time, filming and producing videos to bring awareness to feral cats and the Trap Neuter Return (TNR) programs available in Toronto. Her videos are always beautiful and professional. And they really capture the heart of each story.
I’ve come to know EK quite well over the last few years as she has filmed many segments for Toronto Street Cats spay/neuter clinics and shelter building workshops. She has also made a short documentary about the work being done by the Toronto Feral Cat Coalition. She has spent a lot of time out in the field filming colony caretakers trapping and caring for the feral cat colonies.
She has also helped promote the Toronto West Cats targeted spay/neuter program run by Toronto Animal Services. Really EK has offered her services in any area that can help us promote Spay/neuter. These videos have been a great help to promote TNR and to connect the Toronto public with services that are available to help them help feral cats.
I would strongly endorse EK for her talents in filming and producing videos. EK is always there to help and a truly beautiful and compassionate soul.
How Can I Follow Your Progress?
Sign up and we’ll take you behind the scenes. We’ll be documenting our progress during production and posting regular video updates on our blog. Join us in the field as the film takes shape. Share your feedback, ideas and insight to help shape the direction of the film while we’re shooting.