The Korea Animal Protection Society (KAPS) is the first organization in Korea dedicated to preventing cruelty to and educating people about animals. The society was founded through the efforts of KAPS director, Sunnan Kum. The shelter began when she bought the sickest looking kitten she could find at the market. When word spread that she was caring for stray and injured animals, people began leaving animals at her doorstep.
Informally established in February 1990, KAPS formally registered with the Korean government as a foundation on 4 December, 1991. Earlier that same year, Sunnan and her sister, Kyenan Kum, combined efforts to persuade the Korean government to establish the first Korean animal protection law. Sunnan and Kyenan soon began distributing brochures and newsletters to solicit new members, and between 1993 and 1995, they published three educational books on animal stewardship. These books provided some of the only information on animal welfare, care and behavior that young Korean children would receive in school. Currently, the KAPS shelter is home to over 85 dogs and 260 cats, as well as a few orphaned or injured wildlife. Although KAPS is concerned for the well-being of all animals, it is currently concentrating its efforts on companion animals. While much of the wildlife exploitation in Korea is monitored by international animal welfare groups, there are no advocates for Korea's companion animals. As a result, dogs and cats continue to suffer in silence at the hands of people who torture with impunity.
In a country of over 46 million people, KAPS is not only the first animal sanctuary, but unlike other "animal rescue" organizations in Korea, KAPS does not endorse a categorical separation between dogs raised as pets from those raised for meat. In fact, until the recent financial crisis in Korea, KAPS has maintained a no-kill policy. Ironically, Koreans are very sensitive to the idea of euthanasia, even if the animal is suffering. Many Koreans believe any life, however bad, is better than death.
Out of approximately 1,800 KAPS supporters, only a very small percentage are able to contribute financially. Korean supporters of KAPS range from high school students and homemakers to professionals and senior citizens.
Unfortunately, the practice of giving to charities is not common in Korea, and with the current economic crisis, Korean supporters are even less able to help. Donations are primarily received from international supporters and these funds are used to buy food and medicines. Unlike animal shelters you may be familiar with, KAPS is managed full time by one person, Sunnan Kum. In addition there are two members who help with clean up and feeding and one veterinarian.
Aside from these dedicated members, there has been an ongoing education and volunteer program with students and children. Currently, KAPS has been enduring criticism from the Korean public and media for its need to euthanize some of its animals and from dog dealers who regularly challenge Sunnan's work, attempt to bribe her and even threaten her life. In spite of immense obstacles, Sunnan continues to care for the animals as well as to speak out tirelessly against animal cruelty so pervasive in Korea.