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ASAN, South Korea — Puppies bark and wag their tails as they follow a gray-haired woman through a hillside compound that shelters more than 200 dogs.
"Hey, my babies. Give your mom a kiss," says Jung Myoung Sook, 61. She lowers her face and one puppy near a snow-covered kennel licks her lips; another gently paws her cheek.
In South Korea, where dogs are considered a traditional delicacy and have only recently become popular as pets, Jung's love for her canine friends is viewed by some as odd. But others see her as a champion of animal rights.
Rescuing and caring for dogs for 26 years, Jung has moved seven times because of neighbors' complaints about noise. She often stops to pick up dogs roaming the streets, and has bought others in danger of being sold to dog meat farms or restaurants.
Some question whether someone as poor as Jung, who ekes out a living cleaning a store and collecting recyclable boxes, can feed and care for so many dogs. While Jung's dogs looked healthy and well-fed during a recent visit by The Associated Press, their condition couldn't be independently confirmed.
"My babies aren't hungry. They can play and live freely here," said Jung, whose clothes are worn and hair is disheveled. "Some people talk about me, saying, 'Why is that beggar-like middle-aged woman smiling all the time,' but I just focus on feeding my babies. I'm happy and healthy."