SEOUL, South Korea -- In a bid to stifle criticism over Korea's dog eating culture, a South Korean football official plans to send an animal-friendly video to French actress Brigitte Bardot.
Chung Mong-joon, co-chairman of the Korea World Cup Organizing Committee hopes the video -- "Take Care of My Cat"-- will show that South Koreans do care for their animals.
Bardot, a vocal critic of dog-eating, renewed her criticism ahead of next year's World Cup finals, which South Korea will co-host with Japan.
Her comments angered many Koreans who saw them as a slight to their food culture.
In an interview published in Seoul's Daily Sports newspaper, Chung said he would send Bardot the film to show the more caring side of Koreans.
"I plan to see the film and send it to Bardot as the film touches on the subject of loving animals," The Associated Press news agency quoted Chung as saying.
The film is a local movie about five young women who take turns looking after a stray kitten.
Bardot hung up
South Korea has been under international pressure from animal rights activists over its culinary habits ahead of the 2002 World Cup.
FIFA, world football's governing body, last month called on South Korean authorities to put a stop to animal cruelty.
It said it had received thousands of letters of protest over the mistreatment of dogs and cats in Korea.
Bardot angered Koreans by hanging up the phone during an interview this month with South Korea's MBC radio, after the anchor asked her whether she was aware that some Westerners had fondly described the experience of eating dog meat during visits to the country.
Bardot said she couldn't continue an interview with "liars" and said the consumption of dog meat was a savage custom.
Countering criticism, Chung said Korea has a long tradition of loving animals, reflected in Buddhism, which bans killing even the smallest insects.
Chung also said that Koreans designated a breed of dogs, called "Jindo dogs," as a national treasure.
'Pain improves flavor'
The sale and consumption of dog meat was banned in the run up to the 1988 Seoul Olympics by officials worried at the unfavorable light that would be cast on South Korea's reputation.
However, although officially illegal, dog meat is still widely available in the country.
Animal rights groups say dogs destined for the pot are often subject to unimaginable levels of cruelty; kept in tiny, filthy cages, with cases reported of dogs being blow-torched to death.
Pain is traditionally said to improve the flavor.
Although it is expensive, the meat is usually served up in a soup or a spicy stew and is particularly popular with old men in the belief that it boosts virility.
Advocates of the dog trade say it is an important domestic tradition and that Korean dog meat lovers consume dogs that are bred for eating, not as pets.
About 3 million of South Korea's 47 million people are believed to eat dog meat as a delicacy.
Dog meat is also eaten in some other Asian countries, including China, Vietnam, the Philippines and Laos.