June 20, 2021

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We know our pets

Goyang: How this metropolis in South Korea went cat ridiculous

(CNN) — Ideal regarded for its yearly global flower festival, Goyang is one particular of Seoul’s largest satellite cities. But for decades, officials struggled to differentiate this metropolis of just one million persons from its peers.

The community authorities had multiple social media accounts, but no 1 seemed to treatment significantly about the articles they were being developing. A little something experienced to be completed.

“How about a cat to signify the city’s character?” someone requested half-jokingly during a assembly in 2013, noting the similarities in between the name of the town (Goyang) and the Korean term for cat (goyang-yi).

Choi Seo-young, a public relations official who taken care of the city’s social media, instructed they exam the thought on the city’s extremely unpopular Facebook web page with a cat she drew on a piece of paper.

From joke to actuality

In South Korea, cats have been as soon as regarded crafty creatures that deliver misfortune. But Choi, between the youngest on the crew, wanted to give them a probability.

Goyang’s Facebook account had about 2,000 followers at the time. But just 24 several hours soon after they swapped the profile photograph to a cat named “Goyang-goyang-yi,” social media end users went into a frenzy. The mascot was an instantaneous achievement, with people both of those from inside of the town and about the state wanting to interact with the feline character.

Today, the city’s social media platforms, Facebook provided, now have very well over 50 percent a million followers. Images of Goyang-goyang-yi even look in the metropolis hall’s foyer.

A cat poster welcomes visitors and a statue of a masked cat reminds persons to retain their facial area masks on. There is certainly even a “photograph zone” exactly where readers can pose for a photo with Goyang-goyang-yi.

Goyang city formal Choi Website positioning-youthful poses with the cat she aided style.

Yoonjung Search engine optimisation/CNN

The locals have embraced Goyang-goyang-yi as nicely.

“In the past, there was a stating in Korea that cats need to not be kept with babies simply because cats are robbers and demons,” states Kwon Ji-younger, a café worker and very long-time city resident. “But those times are absent and I am much more acquainted with cats now. The city’s announcements sense far more friendly now that they are coming from a cat.”

“The metropolis had a severe and somewhat uninteresting feel to it, but that has been lifted now that it is employing a cat,” agrees restaurant proprietor Lee Yeong-sook. “When I see messages from Goyang-goyang-yi, it tends to make me smile and I can don’t forget them far more easily.”

Cat energy

Cats dominate social media throughout Asia and the relaxation of the planet — and South Korea is no exception.

Heek, an all-white cat residing on the popular South Korea resort island of Jeju, has additional than 190,000 followers on Instagram. The stray cat’s fortunes turned close to when he found a property with a one resident of Jeju, Lee Sina.

The feline star doesn’t need to do significantly to get fans’ attention. Images of him just lying on a table, strolling on the wall or seeking fully oblivious to the globe score hundreds of likes. Lee released a reserve about Heek in 2017 that ranked in the major 100 guides nationwide for two months at South Korea’s significant on-line bookstore, Sure24.

The newfound level of popularity of cats is frequently attributed to modern day lifestyles and the raise of single-particular person homes in South Korea. Cats are recognized to need significantly less awareness and treatment than canines. Numerous individuals say seeing cat movies gives them a feeling of psychological therapeutic.

Park Jung-yoon, a South Korean celeb vet, thinks that the rising recognition of cats is owing to a alter in Korean modern society.

“People today employed to like canines for their unconditional loyalty, pack animal nature and respect for order, fairly very similar to what South Korean society employed to assume from its users. But now folks have grow to be a lot more individualistic, and cats’ unbiased mother nature and outsider-like picture could have grow to be more captivating to folks.”

South Korean cat house owners often refer to them selves as butlers, a expression that neatly captures the electric power dynamic between the owner and the cat.

A survey issued by the Seoul Metropolitan Governing administration in 2019 reveals cats are most popular by people who live in solitary-particular person homes. A further survey unveiled last month demonstrates that solitary-man or woman homes in the place now account for more than 30 percent of all homes in the state.

The acceptance of cats amongst solitary-human being homes has even led to unique residence patterns.

Pet Heim is a housing developer that targets pet homeowners. The firm’s promotional online video demonstrates a Persian Blue cat inquiring, “Hey butler, have you uncovered our dwelling nevertheless?” and goes on to introduce an condominium geared up with a cat doorway, cat tower, exclusive cat bathtub and far more.

Park Sang-wook founded South Korea's first newspaper dedicated only to cats.

Park Sang-wook started South Korea’s initially newspaper devoted only to cats.

Yoonjung Seo/CNN

The track record makeover

Right until just a 10 years in the past, cats had been mostly disliked in Korea. Stray cats, known as “thief cats” for their habit of ripping by plastic baggage to get scraps of meals inside, were being regarded as unhygienic germ carriers.

“Even 10 a long time ago, people thought of cats as only fantastic for catching mice,” claims Park Sang-wook, editor of Yaong-yi, South Korea’s first newspaper committed to cats, which began publication in 2015.

“We could see cats held on a leash in retailers or places to eat for that function. I can absolutely really feel the adjust. I interviewed many men and women who used to be scared of cats till 3-4 years ago but considering that the social perception of the cats modified, quite a few say they have occur to like cats.”

If not utilized as mouse hunters, there was no rationale for individuals to keep them, so quite a few cats lived in the streets. Cats have been meant to be born, endure on ripping foods garbage luggage folks still left outside their homes, and die when they get previous or ill in the streets.

But points have started off to transform visibly. Park claims the amount of exhibitions on pets employed to be underneath 10 until finally 2016 but that range experienced increased by 4 or five fold by 2017 and 2018.

“A lot of firms that have been focused on holding wedding or baby expos have switched to pet expos,” claims Park.

South Korea’s fertility level is the least expensive in the environment, standing at .84 in 2020. This compares to 1.73 in the US and 1.42 in Japan in 2018, in accordance to the most new figures readily available from the OECD.

There are cat merchandise outlets popping up just like the kinds for K-pop or K-drama star items shops.

“Cats are like celebs now,” Park says.

A cafe operator in Seoul, Noh Hee-jeong suggests she and her cat Eve clicked mainly because they were “comparable in persona.”

“I listen to from men and women that I appear tricky and strong but I am soft within and I assume Eve is just like me,” she states.

Given that Eve moved in with her, she commenced to care for the cats in the neighborhood with other restaurant and cafe owners. They feed stray cats and have conferences to make your mind up what to do when they location unwell kinds.

She introduced a marketing campaign named “we are not factors” and is hoping to modify South Korean legislation which still views animals as belongings, building it tough to punish those who abuse their pets.

Not anyone has fallen for cats… however

The higher level of popularity of cats led to a lot more men and women having cats as pets and then to a bigger range of stray cats as some abandon their new companions. Quite a few strays then come to be victims of abuse or health issues and stop up in shelters. RAY, set up in 2018, is a person of numerous new cat shelters in Seoul.

“Animals have been in a position to endure in their possess ecosystem but with all these developments, they will need our help. It is really time for people to search soon after the animals now,“says Kim Eun-hee, the founder of RAY.

The Animal and Plant Quarantine Agency launched a challenge in 2016 to capture stray cats, neuter them and return them back again to exactly where they employed to dwell — all utilizing governing administration money.

Even so, it can be not more than enough and quite a few shelters are way in excess of ability. RAY is no exception with about 90 cats dwelling in a tiny two-tale constructing in the northern side of Seoul. Kim hopes she can shift to a bigger facility where the centre can develop to rescue far more cats.

Numerous avid cat lovers say a lot more safety for animals and stray cats is unquestionably essential but no one particular can deny the cats’ standing has been elevated further than recognition.

Goyang city’s formal Choi recalled she experienced “hardly ever dreamed of a cat starting to be an official character of the town for the reason that of the cat’s unpopular graphic.” And that was much less than 10 yrs ago.

South Korea is very well recognised for its quick-paced modern society — but even by these requirements, this prosperous makeover of cats appears surprising. From “filthy intruders in the streets” to pampered animals and social media stars, South Korean cats might be heading by even extra quick improvements than the nation by itself.