Politicians are embroiled in an animal abuse controversy as the nation's awareness of animal rights continues to grow.
The latest controversy surrounds Rep. Kim Jin-tae of the main opposition Liberty Party Korea who brought a tiny Bengal cat in a cage to a National Assembly audit session, Wednesday.
The two-term legislator said he brought the cat to the National Assembly to take issue with the government's "over-response" to an escaped puma in September, which escaped its cage at a Daejeon zoo and was shot to death by police. At the time, the incident raised controversy over whether the killing was appropriate.
"I initially tried to bring a puma similar to the killed one, but I changed my plan because it may have caused trouble. Instead, I brought the small kitten with a similar puma pattern," Kim said.
He said he obtained the cat with difficulty for the Assembly session and took care of it by feeding it chicken breast and tuna for several days.
However, his displaying of the cat in front of scores of camera flashes immediately drew a backlash criticizing the conservative lawmaker of animal cruelty.
"Kim's move to exhibit the caged cat shows he does not understand what the real problem was in the puma case at all. It is more animal abuse," an animal rights group, Animal Liberation Wave, said in a statement.
"Bringing the cat as a unique witness to the Assembly audit, he wanted to draw attention. It was just a political show exploiting an animal."
The organization called on Kim to reveal where he had attained the cat and how he will raise it.