Goyang: How this city in South Korea went cat crazy

Gisela Steep

(CNN) — Finest regarded for its yearly global flower festival, Goyang is just one of Seoul’s major satellite metropolitan areas. But for yrs, officials struggled to differentiate this city of 1 million individuals from its friends. The area govt experienced multiple social media accounts, but no one particular appeared to […]

(CNN) — Finest regarded for its yearly global flower festival, Goyang is just one of Seoul’s major satellite metropolitan areas. But for yrs, officials struggled to differentiate this city of 1 million individuals from its friends.

The area govt experienced multiple social media accounts, but no one particular appeared to care considerably about the written content they had been producing. Something had to be finished.

“How about a cat to stand for the city’s character?” another person questioned 50 percent-jokingly throughout a conference in 2013, noting the similarities between the name of the city (Goyang) and the Korean phrase for cat (goyang-yi).

Choi Search engine optimisation-young, a public relations formal who taken care of the city’s social media, instructed they examination the concept on the city’s pretty unpopular Fb site with a cat she drew on a piece of paper.

From joke to actuality

In South Korea, cats ended up the moment regarded as crafty creatures that bring misfortune. But Choi, amongst the youngest on the workforce, required to give them a chance.

Goyang’s Facebook account had about 2,000 followers at the time. But just 24 several hours after they swapped the profile photograph to a cat named “Goyang-goyang-yi,” social media people went into a frenzy. The mascot was an instant good results, with people today both from inside of the metropolis and around the place seeking to interact with the feline character.

Currently, the city’s social media platforms, Facebook integrated, now have perfectly about half a million followers. Images of Goyang-goyang-yi even look in the metropolis hall’s foyer.

A cat poster welcomes website visitors and a statue of a masked cat reminds people today to preserve their encounter masks on. There’s even a “image zone” wherever guests can pose for a picture with Goyang-goyang-yi.

Goyang city official Choi Web optimization-youthful poses with the cat she aided structure.

Yoonjung Web optimization/CNN

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

“In the previous, there was a stating in Korea that cats ought to not be held with toddlers for the reason that cats are robbers and demons,” states Kwon Ji-young, a café worker and extensive-time metropolis resident. “But those people times are gone and I am a lot more acquainted with cats now. The city’s announcements really feel far more friendly now that they are coming from a cat.”

“The metropolis experienced a serious and slightly dull feel to it, but that has been lifted now that it’s employing a cat,” agrees restaurant proprietor Lee Yeong-sook. “When I see messages from Goyang-goyang-yi, it makes me smile and I can keep in mind them more easily.”

Cat electrical power

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 well known South Korea vacation resort island of Jeju, has much more than 190,000 followers on Instagram. The stray cat’s fortunes turned all over when he located a dwelling with a solitary resident of Jeju, Lee Sina.

The feline star doesn’t have to have to do substantially to get fans’ notice. Images of him just lying on a desk, strolling on the wall or wanting fully oblivious to the globe score 1000’s of likes. Lee revealed a e-book about Heek in 2017 that ranked in the top rated 100 guides nationwide for two months at South Korea’s major online bookstore, Yes24.

The newfound attractiveness of cats is typically attributed to present day lifestyles and the boost of solitary-particular person homes in South Korea. Cats are regarded to involve much less consideration and treatment than canine. Several persons say viewing cat films presents them a perception of emotional healing.

Park Jung-yoon, a South Korean celeb vet, believes that the climbing attractiveness of cats is owing to a improve in Korean modern society.

“People today used to like pet dogs for their unconditional loyalty, pack animal nature and respect for purchase, relatively related to what South Korean modern society used to anticipate from its associates. But now men and women have become a lot more individualistic, and cats’ unbiased character and outsider-like graphic could have turn out to be more captivating to men and women.”

South Korean cat entrepreneurs often refer to on their own as butlers, a phrase that neatly captures the electrical power dynamic between the owner and the cat.

A study issued by the Seoul Metropolitan Federal government in 2019 reveals cats are most well-liked by those who live in one-human being households. An additional survey released past thirty day period demonstrates that single-human being households in the place now account for additional than 30 per cent of all households in the place.

The attractiveness of cats among one-man or woman households has even led to exclusive residence styles.

Pet Heim is a housing developer that targets pet owners. The company’s promotional video demonstrates a Persian Blue cat asking, “Hey butler, have you found our home nevertheless?” and goes on to introduce an apartment outfitted with a cat doorway, cat tower, specific cat bathtub and extra.

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

Park Sang-wook launched South Korea’s initial newspaper focused only to cats.

Yoonjung Website positioning/CNN

The status makeover

Until just a 10 years in the past, cats were being generally disliked in Korea. Stray cats, termed “thief cats” for their pattern of ripping via plastic bags to get scraps of meals inside, were considered unhygienic germ carriers.

“Even 10 yrs ago, folks imagined of cats as only fantastic for catching mice,” claims Park Sang-wook, editor of Yaong-yi, South Korea’s initial newspaper focused to cats, which commenced publication in 2015.

“We could see cats kept on a leash in shops or restaurants for that intent. I can unquestionably truly feel the modify. I interviewed several men and women who used to be frightened of cats right up until 3-4 many years ago but because the social perception of the cats improved, a lot of say they have come to like cats.”

If not applied as mouse hunters, there was no reason for men and women to preserve them, so a lot of cats lived in the streets. Cats were intended to be born, survive on ripping food items garbage luggage persons still left outside their houses, and die when they get outdated or ill in the streets.

But matters have started out to modify visibly. Park says the number of exhibitions on pets employed to be less than 10 until eventually 2016 but that amount had improved by four or five fold by 2017 and 2018.

“Numerous organizations that have been targeted on keeping marriage ceremony or little one expos have switched to pet expos,” claims Park.

South Korea’s fertility rate is the most affordable in the planet, standing at .84 in 2020. This compares to 1.73 in the US and 1.42 in Japan in 2018, according to the most modern figures out there from the OECD.

There are cat goods stores popping up just like the kinds for K-pop or K-drama star goods outlets.

“Cats are like celebrities now,” Park suggests.

A cafe operator in Seoul, Noh Hee-jeong says she and her cat Eve clicked simply because they had been “identical in character.”

“I hear from individuals that I glimpse tough and solid but I am gentle inside and I assume Eve is just like me,” she suggests.

Considering the fact that Eve moved in with her, she started out to care for the cats in the community with other restaurant and cafe entrepreneurs. They feed stray cats and have meetings to come to a decision what to do when they spot sick types.

She launched a campaign known as “we are not items” and is attempting to alter South Korean regulation which nevertheless views animals as belongings, producing it tricky to punish all those who abuse their pets.

Not everybody has fallen for cats… yet

The substantial acceptance of cats led to much more people today receiving cats as pets and then to a better amount of stray cats as some abandon their new companions. Quite a few strays then develop into victims of abuse or illness and close up in shelters. RAY, proven in 2018, is one of a lot of new cat shelters in Seoul.

“Animals were ready to survive in their have ecosystem but with all these developments, they require our support. It really is time for humans to seem immediately after the animals now,“says Kim Eun-hee, the founder of RAY.

The Animal and Plant Quarantine Company launched a job in 2016 to catch stray cats, neuter them and return them back again to the place they made use of to are living — all working with govt resources.

However, it truly is not adequate and lots of shelters are way more than capacity. RAY is no exception with about 90 cats dwelling in a modest two-tale setting up in the northern aspect of Seoul. Kim hopes she can shift to a even bigger facility where the centre can grow to rescue a lot more cats.

Lots of avid cat enthusiasts say additional safety for animals and stray cats is undoubtedly essential but no 1 can deny the cats’ standing has been elevated outside of recognition.

Goyang city’s official Choi recalled she experienced “hardly ever dreamed of a cat becoming an official character of the town because of the cat’s unpopular graphic.” And that was significantly less than 10 a long time back.

South Korea is well known for its speedy-paced culture — but even by these standards, this productive makeover of cats seems astonishing. From “filthy burglars in the streets” to pampered animals and social media stars, South Korean cats could be going by means of even a lot more swift alterations than the country alone.

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