Former President Moon Jae-in has notified the South Korean government of his intent to return the dogs that were gifted to him by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un back to the state.
Moon on Saturday relayed his decision to the Ministry of Interior and Safety that he wishes to return a pair of dogs and their puppy that he was taking care of since May, according to local reports on Monday.
Of the three dogs, a pair, Gomi and Songang, were given to the former president by the North Korean leader during his visit to Pyeongyang in 2018 as a symbol of peace in the Korean Peninsula. Another dog is Dauni, one of seven dogs that were born from Gomi, while six others were sent away for adoption.
Moon's decision to part ways with the dogs appears to be in light of differences between him and the current Yoon Suk-yeol administration over who will bear the expense of rearing the dogs.
Initially, the Interior Ministry had reportedly agreed to provide a budget of 2.5 million won ($1,773) every month to Moon to take care of the dogs. But due to opposing views within the current Yoon administration, no subsidy has been provided to Moon.
The Public Service Ethics Act stipulates that gifts received as a president belong to the state and are supposed to be returned to the Presidential Archives. But considering the animals’ welfare and absence of adequate breeding facilities at the archives, the ministry had agreed with the former president that the dogs can stay with him.
“From the perspective of the animals themselves, I think it would be better for them to be with someone who has cared for them all along,” Yoon had said, when there was a discussion over where would the dogs go in March.
Regarding the dogs’ welfare, Moon's secretarial office stated: "We do not doubt that the Presidential Archive will take good care of the Pungsan dogs."
The presidential office had no comment on the matter as of Monday afternoon.