Exploring and comparing what it’s like raising a pet in Korea compared to raising one in your home country: What are the similarities and what are the differences? Are you thinking about raising a pet in Korea? Have you raised one previously in your home country? This article should help you to understand what some of the similarities and differences are, and if raising a pet in Korea is the right choice for you!
Just like any other country in the world, if you are living in Korea you will have to decide whether you want to purchase, adopt, or foster a pet. With many pets being available for adoption, it can be a great opportunity to save a furry life. However, you do need to make the choice that best suits your needs & your living situation so that your pet can have a happy life.
Whatever your choice ends up being, it’s important to do research so that you can make an ethical decision. If you are not sure, you can try spending time with people who raise pets, or you can take on a pet on a temporary basis (fostering, dog-sitting, etc.) before you make a permanent, life-altering decision. I have met a variety of pet owners: some who found their dogs on the street, some who adopted them from societies, and even one person who bought a very-expensive pedigree dog from a specialized-breeder! In every case, the success/failure of taking on a pet depends not on the pet itself, but on whether the owner has spent sufficient time thinking clearly and doing research.
The majority of Koreans live in apartments, villas, studios, or one-rooms of some kind and if you are an expat reading this, it’s likely that your living situation is similar. If, like me, you were raised in the suburbs, this can already be quite a departure from having a house and garden in which to raise your animal. Of course, how much of an issue this is going to be is going to depend on whether you have a hamster or a great dane!
The first course of action to take before getting a pet is to check your housing contract and to check with your apartment’s owner if pets are allowed. Pets are not automatically allowed, and I’ve seen even a hamster become a disputed issue (due to the associated smells), so it’s highly advisable to make everything transparent with all parties in order to avoid future difficulties. Of course, if you own your living circumstances then this will not be an issue.
Secondly, it would be a good idea to imagine how your prospective pet will cope with its environment: your apartment itself and then also the surrounding roads and parks, if it needs to be taken out. If, like me, central Seoul is a drastic difference from the environment you previously raised pets in, it’s important to visualize how life will be for you and your pet and whether that will be enjoyable for both of you. Writing out the times & hours will be incredibly helpful as well. In my case, I’ve had to adapt to living with two dogs in a high-rise apartment. It requires more effort to take them for walks. Plus due to the high population density, I have to be very aware and considerate of other people. All of these factors are important to consider before you get a pet!
Compared to my home country of South Africa, Pet Healthcare in Korea is very high-tech and sophisticated! There are veterinary clinics and hospitals every few kilometers (at most) in most areas of Seoul and the prices are generally very reasonable: I rarely spend more than 20,000 to 30,000 won for things like check-ups, shots, and so on. It is also possible to get a variety of advanced, life-saving surgeries for pets at various specialized veterinary hospitals.
In addition to this, there are also lots of 24-hour veterinary hospitals in Seoul, which is an incredible resource if you have a late-night issue! Pet insurance is readily available and in some cases, you can even get it free for a year if you adopt a pet from a shelter!
Similar to the level of healthcare, the sheer range of food/supplements that are available for pets in Korea is incredible! You can buy food from supermarkets, pet shops, or vets, but there is also a massive range of locally-made and imported pet food and supplements available online -- on websites like Gmarket and Coupang.
With services like next-day delivery widely available, this makes shopping for your pet incredibly easy, cost-efficient, and convenient. Compared to when I first moved to Korea in 2012, so many pet shops have sprung up and pet products generally have just become ubiquitous. Sometimes my jaw drops to the floor when I see the range that a shop like Molly’s has.
If you come from a car-based society like the USA or in my case, South Africa, there might be some adapting that you need to do if you want to raise a pet without your own car. Pets are allowed on all forms of public transport, including bus, train, and KTX, but you need to keep them securely protected in a bag, carrier, or pram for the sake of the pet and the other passengers. If you take a normal taxi, it’s polite to ask the taxi driver before you get in, or you can order one of the many different pet taxi services available. Depending on the species & temperament of the pet you have, this may be a very stressful experience for both pet and owner, so it’s a good idea to do your research and choose the most comfortable option, although sometimes this is not the cheapest! Having two dogs myself, at some point I just decided that having a car would make things much more manageable -- and that has definitely been the case!
Obviously, Korea has a different culture/society compared to your home country and so the attitudes/views of people towards pets will also be different. Having raised dogs for about two years now, I’ll say that just as there would be anywhere, there is a large spectrum of attitudes towards pets: Some people love pets, some people are scared of them, etc.
As it would be anywhere else, the most important thing is to be aware of your pets and considerate of other people in public spaces or when people visit your house. So, for example, when I walk my pugs, I’ve realized that some people in my area are scared of them, so I walk them separately and make sure to always put myself between my dog and the other pedestrian.
I know people who have bigger dogs and they usually muzzle them when walking outside. Part of the reason is general consideration for others, but this is now also required by law for large breeds, such as pit bulls, and is punishable by up to a 3 million won fine if violated. If your dog causes harm to others, you can be held responsible for up to 30 million won in fines or even receive a prison sentence. This is in addition to it now being legally required to keep your dog on a leash in public spaces.
So, considering all these similarities and differences between Korea and your home country, do you want to raise a pet in Korea? And what is the right pet for your living situation?