US President Donald Trump claims he and Kim Jong Un are “in love” but he’s not the one getting gifts from the North Korean leader.
Last week Pyongyang sent two rare Pungsans, Korean hunting dogs, to South Korean President Moon Jae-in, as a token of the growing friendship between the two countries.
Named Songgang and Gomi, the dogs were transferred via the truce village at Panmunjom on the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between the Koreas on September 27, along with three kilos (6.6 lb) of food to help them adapt to their new home.
According to the Blue House, Kim and his wife, Ri Sol Ju, suggested the gift to Moon at a dinner in Pyongyang during the South Korean leader’s historic trip to North Korea last month, with Ri promising they have “certificates of pedigree.”
Dogs have historically been a symbol of thawing ties between the Koreas. In 2000, Kim Jong Il gave two Pungsan puppies – named Uri and Duri – to Kim Dae-jung. The South Korean leader returned the favor with two Jindo dogs named Peace and Reunification.
The Pungsans were initially raised at the Blue House, before being transferred to Seoul Zoo “so every visitor could adore them,” according to the Yonhap News Agency. There, they lived a life of luxury, with a separate enclosure, premium dog food and long daily walks.
While the peace process they were meant to represent did not live as long as Uri and Duri – the pair died in 2013, amid worsening inter-Korean relations – hopes are high Songgang and Gomi will be more auspicious gifts.
The summit between Kim and Moon last month appears to have reinvigorated talks between the Koreas and the US which were beginning to waver, with Moon later passing on a message from Kim to Trump that had the US President waxing rhapsodically about their relationship.
Monday saw another step forward, with the two Koreas beginning operations to remove landmines along the heavily militarized de facto border between them.
Songgang and Gomi will be raised at the Blue House, Moon’s office said in a statement. There they will join a small menagerie of pets belonging to South Korea’s first family, including a rescue dog and cat – Tory and Jjing-Jjing – adopted by Moon on taking office.
“Tory, by conventional standards, is an ugly dog covered in black hair. I will adopt him as ‘first dog’ in the belief that both humans and animals have the right to be free from prejudice and discrimination,” Moon said, explaining his choice of a mixed breed rescue over the purebred animals favored by his predecessors.
As well as Tory and Jjing-Jjing, Moon brought with him to the Blue House his Pungsan Maru, a longtime member of the Moon family.
His well publicized love of animal is in stark contrast to the woman he succeeded as President, Park Geun-hye. She was roundly criticized for abandoning nine Jindo dogs at the Blue House when she left office in 2017, facing a raft of corruption charges and mass protests.
CNN’s Jake Kwon contributed reporting.