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    Pack your pet too, it’s vacation time

    ANN/KOREA HERALD – Seven-year-old Mango the poodle is a beloved companion to Lee He-yong, 40, who brings his dog everywhere, even when he goes hiking. For his summer vacation early this month, Lee went to Meong Beach, situated on the East Sea coast, which allows people to come with their dogs.

    “It was my second time visiting the beach with my dog. In general, many beaches do not allow dogs because people complain about it. But Meong Beach has a lifeguard and is equipped with things that you may need for dogs at the beach,” Lee said.

    Meong Beach in Yangyang County, Gangwon Province, is among a growing number of pet-friendly places in a country where 6.38 million people, as of 2020, live with at least one companion animal. Among them, 82 per cent own a dog.

    Head of Gwangjin village in Yangyang County Kim Nam-sun has been operating Meong Beach for about seven years.

    “On a peak day, some 200 cars are parked by the beach,” said Kim. Meong Beach is open from July 9 to August 21 this year.

    A number of hotels promote packages that draw pet owners for summer vacation. The term “petcance”, a combination of “pet” and the French word for vacation, is widely used here as more and more hotels open to accommodate pets as well. Sheraton Grand Incheon Hotel launched the “Sheraton Petcance” package in June that features in-room dining for dogs and their owners as well as dog-friendly hotel amenities. Four Seasons Hotel Seoul has been allowing pets to stay since its opening in 2015.

    Mango the poodle visits Meong Beach in Gangwon Province. PHOTO: LEE HE-YONG
    Sheraton Grand Incheon Hotel has launched a package ‘Sheraton Petcance’ for those who want to spend summer vacation at the hotel with their dogs. PHOTO: SHERATON GRAND INCHEON HOTEL

    “We were aware of the growing need of customers because the hotel is located near Songdo Central Park where people bring their pets for a walk. There are many inquiries about the package,” said marketing communications supervisor at Sheraton Grand Incheon Hotel Noh Rayna.

    The pet industry is a fast-growing one. It is estimated to become a KRW6 trillion (USD4.58 billion) market in 2027 with annual growth of 14.5 per cent, according to the Korea Rural Economic Institute.

    Elsewhere around Korea, travelers with pets also like to head to the abundant animal-friendly cafes and restaurants on Jeju Island. Pension accommodations located in the outskirts of Seoul, such as Gapyeong and Yangyeong in Gyeonggi Province, are also popular during vacation season.

    A survey conducted by the Korea Tourism Organisation (KTO) released this year shows 43.9 per cent of 2,006 pet owners saying they prefer travelling to places where they can enjoy nature and their dogs can play off-leash, and pensions were most popular as they typically have more space.

    WELL-TRAINED?
    While the pet population in Korea has grown, a huge gap still remains between pet owners and non-pet owners when it comes to expectations about pet behavior, which sometimes leads to confrontations in public spaces.

    According to the same KTO survey cited earlier, only 30 per cent of respondents who do not own pets answered that pet owners have good manners, or “petiquette”, while 80 per cent of pet owners said they have good petiquette themselves. Petiquette includes management of noise levels, hygiene and pet owners’ manners, such as keeping their pets on a leash.

    A resident surnamed Jeong in Hongje-dong, northern Seoul, agreed that pet owners have been able to keep their dogs under control for the most part, but she still sees dogs let off the leash at parks or cafes from time to time.

    “I know many people love dogs because they are cute, but I am not that type of person. I am scared even of little puppies,” Jeong said.

    A 33-year-old office worker who lives in Seoul said she thinks all dogs should wear a muzzle regardless of their size.

    “A large dog passed by me the other day. The owner would say their dog is nice, but I am still scared,” said the Seoulite. “Also I don’t like how people dump pet waste in a plastic bag in the trash.”

    When the city of Gangneung, Gangwon Province, opened the first dog beach in 2013, complaints about noise and hygiene issues from residents led to the city closing off the beach to dogs after a few years. The beach now only allows people. “We have 16 beaches in Gangneung. They do not accept dogs,” said an official from the city.

    “While an increasing number of people are accepting of dogs, we do not have many opportunities to be educated on raising dogs,” said a professor at Tongwon University’s Department of Companion Animals in Gyeonggi Province Lee Sol-i. “There is no standard petiquette that both pet owners and non-pet people share in common and agree on together.”

    Choi Hye-jin, who raises a Maltese in Seoul, said she does not know what people without pets expect when it comes to having the right petiquette.

    “If pet manners are about holding the leash properly, I am doing fine. But to be honest, the term ‘petiquette’ itself sounds like it favours non-pet people.”

    A professor at Keimyung University’s Department of Companion Animal Health in Daegu Seo Myung-ki said there is a lack of a system that fosters communication between pet owners and non-pet owners. By communicating with each other, it could enable better understanding between the two sides so they can find ways to live together.

    “The conflicts are about communication problems. Pet owners do not exactly know what makes others uncomfortable when pet manners are mostly about leash and dog waste at the moment,” Seo said. “Also many dogs in South Korea lack sociability owing to the owners’ scant knowledge of dogs or because they live in apartments. We need to require more education for pet owners when they adopt dogs.”

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