Agra town, India

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Dog Alley

Monday 24th May- our first day proper in South Korea and yours truly's birthday. What better day to search out that So Ko speciality. Dog.

We're staying in Busan, Korea's bloody HUGE container port in the south. Our first stop of the day was Gupo market in the north of the city, a good place to gain a flavour of the city.

The market is sprawling and busy. An hour passes in the business of peering in cabinets and inspecting bloody chopping boards for evidence. Then quite suddenly we come upon, by chance an unlit portion of covered market. Set away from the main bazaars we can just see light at the bottom end and conclude it must be a short cut back through. It takes seconds to process that our camera-laden prescence is an unwelcome one.

If the previous stalls were a jumble of colour and chatter, this is an alley of shadow curtained beneath a heavy quiet. The quiet is punctuated only by the odd tremulous bark from a far corner. Squinting in the direction of the barks, I can see a dozen shambles, all with pens containing perhaps half a dozen large dogs. Not shabby fleabitten strays but clean healthy looking animals. They lie slumped one on top of the other, a heaped pile of shivering fur and limb. The fear is palpable. As the fattened beast is thought to sense the butcher's purpose so these dogs seem fully conscious of their situation.
The few human inhabitants greet us with stony silence, some sharply turning their heads away gesturing no photo, no photo.
One male trader is particularly aggressive and shouts what I'm certain is not an invitation to tea.

A minute or so later (a long minute) we are back, as if by timewarp to the bright swell of the main market. Everything sounds louder as if our ears had popped back in the alley, the banter and bartering working as a most welcome balm.

That brief visit to the dog-pots of Gupo stuck with us over the next couple of days. It was clear from the beginning of our inadvertent stroll down dog alley that this was one holiday snap the residents don't want publicised. We set off some pretty angry responses amongst the traders and butchers.
More research revealed that Dog or Dogtang(soup) has reputation as more of a backroom dish rather than one served up for Sunday lunch. A sea change fuelled by younger Korean's who see the practice as cruel and antiquated.
The South Korea we have experienced so far is one with modernity fixed firmly in its sights, asthetic is everything. The traders here work within a rapidly disappearing tradition, this is one picture of Korea you won't find on a postcard.

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