It was probably on March 5, when spring rain fell just like winter rain. Opinions kept flooding in after the media coverage of a few days earlier. The young male dolphin, Jedori, had been caught, despite the law against it, and trained to perform shows at Seoul Grand Park. Once his story was covered by the media, opinions and reports began to arrive at my office regarding what to do about him. Sadly, however, Jedori was not the only issue the administration of Seoul had to handle. The horribly busy schedule soon turned my attention elsewhere. Then one day his ordeal flashed through my mind as I was in my car heading for the office after an outside duty. I asked my secretary, who was sitting dozing beside me: “We should set him free, shouldn’t we?”
On March 12, I met him for the first time. I also met Geumdeungi, Daepo and other dolphins. I was really glad, so much so that I wanted to hug them. I knew that I should be very careful. There were many people around me, and many cameras. I needed to be discreet. All kinds of thoughts rushed through my mind. Making a decision was one thing, but an actual meeting was quite another. Questions began to occur to me one after another: Wouldn’t Geumdeungi and Daepo feel lonely without him? How could he be separated from the trainers? What if he missed people? Are the citizens, young people in particular, ready to be separated from him? Could he successfully complete the pre-release training? I even asked myself before meeting him: Am I not trying to exploit Jedori’s happiness for my own sake? But then everything became clear as soon as we met face to face. “All right, Jedori,” I said to myself, “Let’s try. Let’s go home.” The world will be the most beautiful place for one and all only when all creatures are where they should be. I believe that helping them to find their rightful place should be an important part of the ultimate goal of the administrative services.
I had lunch together with the dolphin trainers after the press conference held at the park. I felt rather uncomfortable, with too many thoughts rushing into my head, but I had to ask the trainers in a discreet manner. “You must be very sorry for Geumdeungi, Daepo and all others who will be left behind. What can you do to soothe them?” “We will hug them more often,” the trainers replied, almost in unison. I was moved by the reply, but did not know how to respond. I just kept stirring my soup with the spoon.
A great variety of stories about the dolphin are being unfolded through the media. It is great to see such a flood of opinions concerning his welfare, because I believe it will surely help Jedori have a happier future. Thanks to him, we have now come to know more about animal rights, and that is a great asset for all of us, whether we support or oppose Jedori’s ‘homecoming’.
Jedori will face more stories from now on. There will be more opinions, comprehensive expert opinions, regarding animal welfare. There will be a citizens’ council, too. What is important is reaching an agreement based on much discussion and research. If there is a single principle that shouldn’t be changed, it should be Jedori’s happiness. At the same time, the zoo of the Seoul Grand Park will also be changed gradually, and developed into an institution characterized by the concept of mutual prosperity. It may take a long time, but that will be because that’s the way things are done. The leading actors should be Jedori, his fellow animals in the zoo, and the citizens who support animal welfare. I sincerely hope everything will turn out all right.
(I remember how a very successful TV show focusing on “the qualifications required to be a man” once dealt with stray dogs. In the show, Mr. Yi Yun-seok, a popular comedian who is often ridiculed as “the weakest man on earth”, commented: “The development of humanity is not the development of technology. The history of human development has been the expansion of moral rights and sympathy.” It is an idea supported by the philosopher Peter Singer. It means that human development is possible only when we grant human rights to social minorities such as women, the elderly, children and even animals and plants. Looking back over the course of human history, it is truly the right perception. It’s a little late but I would like to say hello to Mr. Yi and thank him for his inspiring show.