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[HOT TOPIC!] "Koreans would rather have pets than children" — The blooming trend of dog cafes in South Korea!

The dog cafe industry in South Korea has been a hot topic over the past few years. The number of people owning a dog has increased tenfold. Compared to the West, Korea has a very strong and ever growing "dog cafe and hotel", and "dog accessory" market which Dojeon team member, Lewis could not resist wanting to find out more! Read on to find out about this fascinating new market!

I recently had an in person interview in order to discuss the industry first hand with dog cafe and hotel owner Jo Hyun Young.

Photo: Jo Hyun-Young
Photo: Jo Hyun Young

Hyun Young, can you please tell the readers about yourself?  

My name is Jo Hyun Young, and I am 35 years old. I run a dog cafe and hotel and I also rescue abandoned dogs in Daegu, and I am a proud owner of 3 dogs! 

Photo: Jo Hyun-Young
Photo: Jo Hyun-Young

Can you please tell the readers how you started to rescue abandoned dogs, and how that has had an impact on your life today? 

I found a dog in a harness next to Starbucks at Palgongsan Mountain in Daegu who was lying around. I approached him and gave him some food, as he looked hungry. I later found out that his name is Sodam, and after finding this dog, I became interested in helping other abandoned dogs or dogs in need, and volunteered at a dog shelter, and later went on to open my own dog cafe and hotel which is called "Dog Place".

Today, as well as running the commercial side, I also home abandoned dogs which wait to get adopted out, as often they are in 'high Kill shelters' or bad conditions out in the street. I'd say that it's very rewarding but also hard work. 

Now, back in December 2022, I also adopted a dog from "Dog Place", and I have to say that the service and cause is so good, and sadly never ending with more and more abandoned dogs being found and due to the broken system not all of them can be rescued.

Nova, who was rescued and adopted in 2022. Photo: Lewis Hooper
Nova, who was rescued and adopted in 2022. Photo: Lewis Hooper

South Korea has the world's lowest "birth rate" in 2023, however the number of Koreans buying dogs as pets has increased. Why do you think this is? 

I think it is because, pets are less of a burden than having children, and raising children is much more expensive. That's why I am satisfied like most Koreans to love and give affection to a pet rather than raising a child.

However, it is of course not desirable to see a low birth rate. I think that there are many factors of having a low birth rate, such as rising prices, employment difficulties, and of course the cost of raising children and young Koreans not wanting to get married. The government should identify the fundamental problems of having a low birth rate and work on finding adequate solutions. 

There is of course more dog cafes, hotels and dog parks, and most young Koreans look at raising a dog differently to the older generation and view them more as pets. 

I also hold inspirational and educational talks with local schools in order to discuss the dog industry and help the young generation understand these animals more, in the hope that it will help the country and industry, since the number of dog owners has been increasing.

Photo: Jo Hyun-Young
Photo: Jo Hyun Young

In the UK and other Western Countries, dog hotels and cafes are not really a business. Can you share why you think they have become so popular in South Korea? 

In my opinion, the reason why dog cafes are popular in Korea, is because dog owners can take their dogs to a safe place, to meet other dogs and likeminded people, in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere. It's also nice for the dogs to not be on a leash, and for them to run around and of course dog owners get satisfaction by watching their dogs have fun. 

I also think that, as most Koreans live in apartment buildings compared to Western houses, having outside space is very rare, so a dog café environment is very popular. 

What is the most challenging aspect of running a dog cafe & hotel? 

Safety is the biggest challenge and of course the most important. Of course, dogs have different behavior like humans, so it important to take care of each dog to prevent accidents happening. 

Photo: Jo Hyun-Young
Photo: Jo Hyun Young

What can we expect from you and "Dog Place" in the future? 

I will continue to rescue abandoned dogs and dogs from shelters as much as I can, as well as making "Dog Place" as comfortable for the dogs and guests as possible. I hope to be able to adopt out and help more dogs. 


If you are affected, or would simply like to help the cause / or adopt your own dog - then please sign up and follow; 'sodam_homerun_byeori' on Instagram!


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