Lee Hyori's positive PR for street cats in Korea

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Korea is not yet a good place for cats. As I wrote a year ago I believe Korea is on the verge of becoming a cat-loving country, but it's certainly not there yet. This week this was made especially clear as a story broke about a woman in her 20s who stomped on her neighbor's cat who had found its way into the hallway (he left the door open) and eventually killed it by throwing it off the 10th floor. So what will happen to the woman? Animal abuse of this type can be punished with a fine of a few hundred dollars, up to around $4500, but this was an exceptional case for a man who killed a large number of dogs, and that was only due to an extensive PR campaign by an animal rights group.

A new political party called the 진보신당 (they did quite well in the last election) has been pushing for tougher penalties for animal abuse, and has released a statement here.

The view the average person has on animals however is most important. In general, this is the type of person you're likely to encounter in Korea re: cats:

1) Someone who hates / fears them. Seems to be very common among people in their 40s and 50s, but can be found at any age.
2) Someone who doesn't have much of an opinion either way on cats. Fine, nothing wrong with that.
3) Someone who seems to like cats and may have one...but only likes Persian cats, expensive ones with long fur. These people are not much of a help at all to be honest, as they usually see their showroom cats as being completely different from the poor street cat. And finally:
4) Someone who likes and/or has cats, regardless of the breed or place of origin.

That brings us to Lee Hyori. She's likely Korea's most famous female singer, and has been that way for about a decade now. She actually made the news today as well re: plagiarism in her new album, but that's another story. Singers in Korea are by and large performers, not songwriters. Back to cats: she has two cats of her own which are Persians, but she treats street cats very well too. Here's a video of her in Thailand shooting a commercial, whereupon she spots a street cat and gives it something to eat (starts about 20 seconds in). This may seem very normal to someone outside of the country, but in Korea people who spend time with cats or help out stray animals are often thought to be weird or lonely (something along the lines of the crazy cat woman in the Simpsons) so a star deigning to stop and give a street cat something to eat is actually very impressive.

Videos of her are plentiful, but this one in particular IMO needs to go viral. Luckily the person that uploaded it added English subtitles too.

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