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South Korea Legally Acknowledges Animals As ‘Sentient Beings’ Not ‘Objects’ In New Amendment To The Civil Act

The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) in South Korea has announced plans to legally recognize animals as ‘sentient beings’ rather than ‘objects’ in an attempt to prevent cases of abuse and abandonment. The current Civil Act defines animals as “corporeal things,” which means they are visible, tangible, and can be managed.

Once the clause is incorporated into Article 98.2 of the Civil Act, South Korea will become one of a handful of countries to recognize animals as beings, with a right to protection, enhanced welfare, and respect for life. The amendment is anticipated to be approved next month by the South Korean National Assembly.

As per a statement on the MOJ website, as the number of households with companion animals in South Korea has increased significantly over the recent years, so has the public’s consensus that animals should be more protected and cared for as living creatures. There is also growing concern about the increasing number of animal cruelty and abandonment cases in the country.

“It has been pointed out that the fundamental reason behind insufficient punishments and compensations for animal harm is attributed to the fact that animals are treated as ‘things’ under the legal system,” noted the MOJ.

The National Police Agency claimed last year that the number of cases where people were investigated for violations of animal protection laws had been growing every year, rising from 264 in 2015 to 331 in 2016, 459 in 2017, 592 in 2018, and 973 in 2019. While increasing, the numbers do not reflect the number of cases that are unreported.

“With the new clause taking effect, the level of punishment for animal cruelty and compensation for animal harm would be adjusted in a way that satisfies the public awareness in the long-term perspective,” noted the MOJ. “In a society that respects animals as living creatures, the level of punishment to compensation for animal harm cannot be the same as that in a society that treats them as things.”

“Considering the status of the Civil Act, which is the fundamental law of the private legal system, this new legislation would not only strengthen animal protection, but also facilitate a society in which lives are highly protected and respected, be it human or animal,” concluded the MOJ.

You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate and in your glass. #GoVeg

You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate and in your glass. #GoVeg

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