Animals in South Korea to get legal status in light of abandonment and abuse5 min readReading Time: 4 minutes
Do animals have rights?
The obvious answer should be yes!
But unfortunately, that is not the case legally.
Did you know that without a legal status, animals are legally thought of as objects, or property?
This limits any strict judicial action against those who abuse them.
Doesn’t sound fair at all, right?
South Korea agrees!
Animal abusers in South Korea will now face severe punishment as the country plans to amend its civil code to grant animals legal status.
What does it mean to have a legal status?
A legal status assures a subject rights and duties before the eyes of the law. This allows a certain personhood to the subject.
The amendment needs the Parliament’s approval and is likely to receive it in its next session in September. This will make South Korea one of the few nations that legally recognises animals as beings with the rights to protection, welfare, and dignity.
As of November 2019, only 32 countries of the world have recognised non-human species as having feelings and emotions.
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The number of cases of animal abuse in South Korea has increased from 69 in 2010 to 914 in 2019, and the number of people who have pets has gone up to 10 million people in a population of 52 million. Instances of animal abandonment have increased from 89,732 cases in 2016 to 130,401 in 2020.
The present animal protection law in South Korea states that an animal abuser can get anywhere between three years in prison to a fine of 25,494 USD. But the instances of severe punishment are scarce as animals are seen as objects under the current legal system. This takes away their rights, and therefore, personhood. Once the new amendment establishes their legal status, judges will have more options while declaring judgements.
The decision has been met with both resignation, and jubilation.
The Korean Pet Industry Retail Association believes that it will regulate the industry making it difficult to adopt pets. At the same time, the Justice Ministry believes that it will help in follow-up procedures like life-insurance policy for animals, reporting of roadkill, and developing a social obligation to rescue. Even animals rights group have welcomed this decision demanding stricter penalties for those who torture animals.
For those, still questioning the need of such an amendment, here is Jin-hui, a rescue pomeranian, who was abandoned by his owners in a brutal manner in 2018.
The shelter saved Jin-hui, whose name translates to ‘true light’, in the nick of time. The amendment will attempt to ensure that no animal is treated with anything less than humanity, and that Jin-hui and others like him are treated with respect and dignity. Seems like a good way to go, doesn’t it?