Animal welfare disaster looms amid Incheon redevelopment project

By Jon Dunbar

Urban renewal often leads to increased animal abandonment, but an ongoing development project in Incheon, west of Seoul, could lead to an animal welfare crisis.

Demolition continues in the Jeondogwan (Missionary) redevelopment area, located next to Dowon Station on Seoul Subway Line 1. The aging district, built on a small hill, would be the city’s last “moon village”, a refugee camp. established decades ago. Most of the remaining houses have no gas pipes and heating is still provided in winter by charcoal briquettes. At the top of the hill stands a majestic lime-green church built in 1956-57 by Park Tae-son, founder of the new Olive Tree religious movement. This same building, after being abandoned since 2005, has since become a safe space for hundreds of dogs, but with the looming eviction, the remaining dogs have nowhere to go.

“Boksuni’s Shelter (복순이네 쉼터)” was established in the building in 2016 by Yeon Tae-seong, a longtime local resident. It is a private dog shelter, operated through donations and volunteers. Many dogs are rescued from city killing shelters, while some have been rescued from dog meat farms and still others are abandoned pets. Currently, there are about 90 dogs left, almost all of which are large breeds, unpopular in Korea and unlikely to be adopted. Most live in cages located inside the building and on its grounds, with a few dogs allowed to roam freely on the property. Some have been sent overseas for adoption, but it’s an expensive procedure, requiring at least 700,000 won per dog, according to a volunteer on April 10.

The volunteer, who wished to remain anonymous, said he rescued a total of 17 dogs, six of whom are staying at the shelter and four are still there. According to the volunteer, about 70 to 80 volunteers visit the animal shelter each week, representing about 10 different groups and communities, including six nonprofit organizations, three civic groups engaged in dog rescue, and about eight people who rescue dogs. and accommodate them there.

In an interview with Hankook Ilbo last month, Yeon expressed the impossibility of relocation as the operation relies heavily on the support of volunteers.

Yeon was taken to court by the redevelopment committee, who claimed his animal shelter was now occupying the building without permission.

With nowhere to go and facing the possibility of increased legal costs, Yeon and the volunteers desperately search for a solution.

“I think it’s something the public should take care of, but it’s a shame that a good-hearted person has to pay a fine,” said Min Woon-gi, director of Incheon Culture Brewery, a community center and an artistic platform close to the Baedari region.

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