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August 29, 2016

North Korea’s Central Zoo in Pyongyang recently re-opened its doors after two years of renovations and has a brand new star attraction: dogs.

While common household companions in much of the world, poodles, German Shepherds, Saint Bernards, Shih-tzus, and Schnauzers are curiosities in North Korea, which is why they have found a home in the zoo.

The dog pavilion hosts an assortment of breeds all romping in their cages in front of zoo patrons. According to the BBC, a plaque on the dog pavilion indicates that North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un reportedly helped bolster the zoo’s dog collection by donating several puppies, including poodles, German shepherds and a Chihuahua.

The dog pavilion’s resident Jindo dog represents a furry form of détente with South Korea, as the pup was a present from former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung. At the zoo, it lives next door to North Korea’s own national dog, a white breed known as Pungsans. Almost makes you wish all international relations involved puppies.

The dogs join bears, elephants, zebras, and donkeys in the zoo that was started in 1959 by Kim Jong-un’s grandfather, Kim Il-sung.

At that time, the zoo had just 50 badgers in residence, the Associated Press reported. Now the variety has grown, thanks in part to animals given to the zoo from foreign leaders. For instance, the zoo’s first elephant came from Vietnamese revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh, orangutans came from former Indonesian president Suharto, and the King Charles spaniel in the dog pavilion, was reportedly given to Kim’s father, Kim Jong-Il, by “the U.S. company Tapco” in 1995, according to the AP.

Dog lovers will be relieved to know that it looks like the pups at least have plenty of room to run and romp in their pens. While dogs in a zoo may be strange to Western eyes, it’s actually a sign that dogs are slowly being considered companion animals in Korea. According to the AP, the dog pavilion includes tips on dog training, hinting that keeping pups as pets may be on the rise in North Korea.

While it’s still difficult for Westerners to visit the nation, some companies do offer guided tours. Future stops may include the newly refurbished Central Zoo.

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