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South Korea’s former president and his successor are at war in a custody battle over two former “peace puppies” gifted by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in 2018, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.
The two canines, named Songgang and Gomi, were given to then-President Moon Jae-in – who stepped down from office earlier this year – during a period of rapprochement between both nations.
The Pungsan dogs – an indigenous breed in North Korea – gave birth to seven puppies in total during Moon’s presidency.
Following his exit, Moon took the parents and one offspring to his personal residence even though the animals are considered state property under the country’s Presidential Records Act.
The former leader was entrusted with the dogs’ care following negotiations with the government. But a recent dispute broke out over a proposed monthly budget of $1,800 in government funds to cover the pets’ food and veterinary care costs.
The country’s new president, Yoon Suk Yeol, opposed the plan without any explanation, according to Moon’s office.
The former leader now plans to give up the dogs. Meanwhile, the custody fight has sparked an online outcry with many South Koreans offering to adopt the pets themselves.
Meanwhile, Yoon’s office denied Moon’s claims, adding that the relevant agencies are still discussing the situation.
Dogs are considered a symbol of warming ties between the two Koreas: In 2000, then-North Korean leader Kim Jong Il – the current ruler’s father – gave two Pungsan dogs to his South Korean counterpart, Kim Dae-jung. These revered dogs are considered to be an emblem of the country’s “proud spirit,” NK News wrote.