People with pets often say that having pets is just like having a baby. Nobody should have to leave their baby at home alone, and this should apply to dogs as well. This problem seems to have been resolved by Starfield Hanam in Gyeonggi Province, Korea’s first shopping mall to allow pets. But even roses have thorns. So, what could be the “thorns” of Starfield Hanam’s pet policy?
|[Inside Hanam Starfield Mall. Photo taken by author.]|
The best convenience that Hanam offers its customers is a place where dogs and their owners can spend time together. They can shop, eat, and take walks together—quality time for both dogs and their owners. Even when the weather is bad, whether it is pouring cats and dogs or hot enough to bake a potato, people can always go to Hanam Starfield to walk their dogs. Ji Hoon Park, a father who frequents the facility with his son, said, “The biggest reason we visit Starfield is that it’s the only place we know that allows us to shop with our dog. I’ve been waiting for this kind of pet-friendly mall to open for a long time, and I’m so glad that it’s finally here. We want to spend as much time as possible with our dog during the weekend.”
|[Interview with the Lees shopping with their dog. Photo credit to Hyo Sim Lee.]|
When asked about the benefits that Hanam Starfield offers, another frequent visitor of Hanam Starfield, Young Seok Lee, mentioned socialization for dogs—that is, dogs meeting other dogs and experiencing new environments. According to PetHelpful, a website where pet experts share their knowledge, dogs need to socialize to increase their self-esteem and mental health. Giving dogs a chance to socialize also benefits the relationship between owners and dogs since it gives the dogs an outlet to relieve their stress. Hanam Starfield is providing dogs with a place where they have opportunities to socialize. Moreover, it provides convenient settings in which to socialize, such as small playgrounds, where they can spend time mingling with each other. In providing such a place to keep dogs occupied and happy, Hanam seems to be effectively promoting the welfare of both dogs and their owners.
|[Interviewing Ji Hoon Park with his dog at Hanam Starfield. Photo credit to Hyo Sim Lee.]|
Last but not least, Hanam Starfield is recognized for its convenient facilities for dogs and their owners. The mall offers free dog waste bags, “dog parking”, dog playground, and even restaurants and stores that allow dogs in. The idea of the mall offering poop bags for its customers is especially generous and thoughtful, as it alleviates customers’ inconvenience of having to bring their own bags every time. Dog parking is available for those who want to “park” their dogs (leashing them in a specific area so owners can go to the bathroom or other stores where dogs are not allowed), while “dog playgrounds” are also available for those who would rather let their dogs run free within a fenced area while the dog owners visit the restroom. Starfield also seems to have considered the minute details, as can be seen by the fences that separate each dog in the “dog parking” area to prevent dog fights. Furthermore, to reduce the hassle of having to ask each restaurant whether dogs are allowed, Starfield has put stickers on each restaurant entrance, indicating one of three conditions: “dogs allowed,” “no dogs allowed,” or “dog allowed if in carrier.”
|[Me holding up a dog waste paper bag that is offered for free at Hanam Starfield.
Photo credit to Hyo Sim Lee.]
Not all customers are happy, though. A certain visitor, who has a severe dog allergy, said with disapproval, “I have an allergy to dogs so I can’t visit Starfield to buy clothes. I don’t know if Hanam Starfield even considered people like us who have allergies to dogs or animals. How are we to go? I mean, some people have cynophobia (fear of canines and dogs)” According to Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology Research (AAIR), an official publication that focuses on Korean allergies, asthma, and immunology, 37.6 percent of Koreans suffer from dog allergies. “I’ve also seen dogs sit on the furniture in the mall, like sofas and chairs, and I don’t think it’s sanitary,” he added.
In the end, it seems that for some, Hanam Starfield is a beautiful rose to be appreciated, but for others, it’s just a rose to be admired from afar due to its many thorns. To some, it may be a shopping haven for pet enthusiasts and their furry friends, but unfortunately for others, it may just be an inaccessible place that they may never get to visit. Just how Starfield could accommodate everyone and be a fairer place for all could possibly be the next question that it needs to address.
Sophomore (Grade 11)
Cebu International School
Soo-A Hong firstname.lastname@example.org
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