Seoul, South Korea CNN —
A pair of dogs donated by North Korea are at the center of a political row in South Korea after the country’s former president said he would give them up over an apparent lack of legal and financial support from his successor to care for the animals.
The two white pungsan hounds, Gomi and Songgang, were presented to then-South Korean President Moon Jae-in by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during peace talks in 2018.
The dogs have lived with Moon ever since, even after he was replaced as president by Yoon Suk Yeol in May – although they legally belong to the state.
On Monday, Moon’s office said in a statement that he would turn the dogs over to the presidential archives, and accused President Yoon of blocking a discussion to provide a legal basis for the former president to keep them.
“Unlike the Presidential Archives and the Interior Ministry, the Office of the President appears opposed to leaving the care of the Pungsan dogs to former President Moon,” Moon’s office said in a statement.
“According to recent media reports, the Office of the President has no good will for an easy solution to this problem. Are they hoping to blame Moon? Or because they feel responsible for these pets? We are amazed to see the malice of the current government on display on such a minor issue.”
The Ministry of Interior and Security confirmed that the government is in talks with Moon to provide monthly subsidies totaling 2.5 million won ($1,800) for the animals.
President Yoon, who already has four dogs and three cats, denied stopping Moon from keeping the dogs in a statement from his office on Monday, saying talks between relevant ministries are ongoing.
“It is not true that former President Moon Jae-in tried to find a basis for raising the pungsan dogs, but the presidential office disagreed,” the statement said.
Dogs have historically been a symbol of the thawing of relations between the Koreas. In 2000, Kim Jong Il gave two Pungsan puppies – named Uri and Duri – to Kim Dae-jung. The South Korean leader retaliated with two Jindo dogs named Peace and Reunification.