The organizer: EK Park
The pitch: Creating Free Korean Dogs
EK Park was visiting her mother in Korea in 2015 when she saw something that horrified her.
A group of four men, whom she knew from her childhood, were trying to hang a dog from a bridge. “They were trying to kill the dog,” Ms. Park recalled from her home in Toronto.
Eating dogs has long been commonplace across much of Korea and farmers routinely kill dogs or sell them to meat plants. Ms. Park couldn’t believe the practice was still taking place in her village and she begged the men to stop. “I was shaking, crying. I just walked up to them and said, ‘Stop it.’ I screamed at them,” she said. “They are not evil. It’s like killing a chicken there.”
The men agreed to spare the dog after Ms. Park promised to send them food and money. She found out later that they sold the dog to a meat processor a couple of weeks later. “I cried a lot. I went through depression,” she said.
Her husband encouraged her to take action. “He said, ‘EK, why don’t you do something instead of crying and hating people?’”
That led her to create Free Korean Dogs, a Canadian charity that also operates in the U.S. as a non-profit organization. Since 2015, the organization has helped Canadians adopt 1,300 dogs from Korea and it has shut down two Korean meat farms.
All of the adopted dogs are given medical checkups, vaccinations and some training to ensure they can withstand the long journey. The charity has also lined up volunteers who travel with the animals. It costs around $1,500 to bring a dog to Canada, but the charity keeps its adoption fees below $1,000. The difference is made up by donations.
Ms. Park, who is the charity’s executive director, credits the success of Free Korean Dogs to “the power of working with compassionate people.” “One thing that I know by now: if your goal is clear and your intention is also transparent and clear to save these dogs, you just do your work and stop worrying about other things.”
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