North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s latest gift to the residents of Pyongyang, the renovated central zoo, is pulling in thousands of visitors a day with a slew of attractions ranging from such typical zoo fare as elephants, giraffes, penguins and monkeys to a high-tech natural history museum with displays showing the origins of the solar system and the evolution of life on Earth.
This might come to a surprise to foreign visitors, but dogs are one of the most popular attractions at the zoo. Dozens of breeds, including schnauzers, German shepherds, Shih Tzus and Saint Bernards are on display.
One of the dogs on display, a King Charles spaniel, was presented as a gift to Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, by “the U.S. company Tapco” in 1995.
While dog meat is still a common dish in the North, and in China and South Korea as well, a small but growing number of North Koreans are keeping canines as pets. Though somewhat shocking to those accustomed to thinking of dogs as companions or household pets, the zoo display may actually reflect an increasingly fond attitude toward dogs in North Korea. Renovations for the new zoo began in 2014 as part of Kim Jong Un’s efforts to create more modern and impressive structures and leisure centers around the capital.