Goyang: How this city in South Korea went cat crazy

(CNN) — Best identified for its annual worldwide flower competition, Goyang is certainly one of Seoul’s largest satellite tv for pc cities. But for years, officers struggled to distinguish this city of 1 million folks from its friends.

The native authorities had a number of social media accounts, however nobody appeared to care a lot in regards to the content material they had been producing. Something needed to be executed.

“How a couple of cat to signify the city’s character?” somebody requested half-jokingly throughout a gathering in 2013, noting the similarities between the identify of the city (Goyang) and the Korean phrase for cat (goyang-yi).

Choi Seo-young, a public relations official who dealt with the city’s social media, recommended they check the concept on the city’s very unpopular Facebook web page with a cat she drew on a bit of paper.

From joke to actuality

In South Korea, cats had been as soon as thought-about artful creatures that convey misfortune. But Choi, among the many youngest on the workforce, needed to present them an opportunity.

Goyang’s Facebook account had about 2,000 followers on the time. But simply 24 hours after they swapped the profile image to a cat named “Goyang-goyang-yi,” social media customers went right into a frenzy. The mascot was an instantaneous success, with folks each from throughout the city and across the nation desirous to work together with the feline character.

Today, the city’s social media platforms, Facebook included, now have effectively over half one million followers. Images of Goyang-goyang-yi even seem in the city corridor’s foyer.

A cat poster welcomes guests and a statue of a masked cat reminds folks to maintain their face masks on. There’s even a “picture zone” the place guests can pose for an image with Goyang-goyang-yi.

Goyang city official Choi Seo-young poses with the cat she helped design.

Yoonjung Seo/CNN

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

“In the previous, there was a saying in Korea that cats shouldn’t be saved with infants as a result of cats are thieves and demons,” says Kwon Ji-young, a café employee and long-time city resident. “But these days are gone and I’m extra aware of cats now. The city’s bulletins really feel extra pleasant now that they are coming from a cat.”

“The city had a critical and barely boring really feel to it, however that has been lifted now that it is utilizing 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 extra simply.”

Cat energy

Cats dominate social media throughout Asia and the remainder of the world — and South Korea is not any exception.

Heek, an all-white cat residing on the favored South Korea resort island of Jeju, has greater than 190,000 followers on Instagram. The stray cat’s fortunes circled when he discovered a house with a single resident of Jeju, Lee Sina.

The feline star does not must do a lot to get followers’ consideration. Pictures of him simply mendacity on a desk, strolling on the wall or wanting completely oblivious to the world rating 1000’s of likes. Lee printed a ebook about Heek in 2017 that ranked in the highest 100 books nationwide for 2 weeks at South Korea’s main on-line bookstore, Yes24.

The newfound reputation of cats is commonly attributed to fashionable existence and the rise of single-person households in South Korea. Cats are identified to require much less consideration and care than canine. Many folks say watching cat movies provides them a way of emotional therapeutic.

Park Jung-yoon, a South Korean celeb vet, believes that the rising reputation of cats is because of a change in Korean society.

“People used to love canine for his or her unconditional loyalty, pack animal nature and respect for order, considerably just like what South Korean society used to anticipate from its members. But now folks have turn into extra individualistic, and cats’ impartial nature and outsider-like picture might have turn into extra interesting to folks.”

South Korean cat homeowners usually discuss with themselves as butlers, a time period that neatly captures the facility dynamic between the proprietor and the cat.

A survey issued by the Seoul Metropolitan Government in 2019 reveals cats are most popular by those that stay in single-person households. Another survey launched final month reveals that single-person households in the nation now account for greater than 30 % of all households in the nation.

The reputation of cats amongst single-person households has even led to particular house designs.

Pet Heim is a housing developer that targets pet homeowners. The firm’s promotional video reveals a Persian Blue cat asking, “Hey butler, have you ever discovered our house but?” and goes on to introduce an residence geared up with a cat door, cat tower, particular cat bathtub and extra.

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

Park Sang-wook based South Korea’s first newspaper devoted solely to cats.

Yoonjung Seo/CNN

The fame makeover

Until only a decade in the past, cats had been largely disliked in Korea. Stray cats, known as “thief cats” for his or her behavior of ripping by plastic baggage to get scraps of meals inside, had been thought-about unhygienic germ carriers.

“Even 10 years in the past, folks considered cats as solely good for catching mice,” says Park Sang-wook, editor of Yaong-yi, South Korea’s first newspaper devoted to cats, which started publication in 2015.

“We might see cats saved on a leash in outlets or eating places for that function. I can actually really feel the change. I interviewed many individuals who was once afraid of cats till 3-4 years in the past however because the social notion of the cats modified, many say they’ve come to love cats.”

If not used as mouse hunters, there was no cause for folks to maintain them, so many cats lived in the streets. Cats had been meant to be born, survive on ripping meals garbage baggage folks left exterior their houses, and die once they get previous or sick in the streets.

But issues have began to vary visibly. Park says the variety of exhibitions on pets was once beneath 10 till 2016 however that quantity had elevated by 4 or 5 fold by 2017 and 2018.

“Many corporations that had been centered on holding marriage ceremony or child expos have switched to pet expos,” says Park.

South Korea’s fertility price is the bottom in the world, standing at 0.84 in 2020. This compares to 1.73 in the US and 1.42 in Japan in 2018, in accordance with the newest figures accessible from the OECD.

There are cat items outlets popping up similar to those for Ok-pop or Ok-drama star items outlets.

“Cats are like celebrities now,” Park says.

A restaurant proprietor in Seoul, Noh Hee-jeong says she and her cat Eve clicked as a result of they had been “related in character.”

“I hear from those that I look robust and powerful however I’m smooth inside and I believe Eve is rather like me,” she says.

Since Eve moved in together with her, she began to look after the cats in the neighborhood with different restaurant and cafe homeowners. They feed stray cats and have conferences to determine what to do once they spot sick ones.

She launched a marketing campaign known as “we’re not issues” and is attempting to vary South Korean legislation which nonetheless views pets as possessions, making it arduous to punish those that abuse their pets.

Not everybody has fallen for cats… but

The excessive reputation of cats led to extra folks getting cats as pets after which to a better variety of stray cats as some abandon their new companions. Many strays then turn into victims of abuse or sickness and find yourself in shelters. RAY, established in 2018, is certainly one of many new cat shelters in Seoul.

“Animals had been capable of survive in their very own ecosystem however with all these developments, they want our assist. It’s time for people to take care of the animals now,“says Kim Eun-hee, the founding father of RAY.

The Animal and Plant Quarantine Agency launched a venture in 2016 to catch stray cats, neuter them and return them again to the place they used to stay — all utilizing authorities funds.

However, it is not sufficient and plenty of shelters are method over capability. RAY is not any exception with about 90 cats dwelling in a small two-story constructing in the northern aspect of Seoul. Kim hopes she will transfer to an even bigger facility the place the middle can develop to rescue extra cats.

Many avid cat lovers say extra safety for pets and stray cats is certainly wanted however nobody can deny the cats’ standing has been elevated past recognition.

Goyang city’s official Choi recalled she had “by no means dreamed of a cat turning into an official character of the city due to the cat’s unpopular picture.” And that was lower than ten years in the past.

South Korea is well-known for its fast-paced society — however even by these requirements, this profitable makeover of cats appears stunning. From “soiled thieves in the streets” to pampered pets and social media stars, South Korean cats could also be going by much more fast adjustments than the nation itself.

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