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Q: I heard stories recently about Korean protesters smashing pheasants with hammers during a protest in Seoul. What’s up with that?

A: Forget sit-ins and picket lines. That stuff’s for amateurs. Protesting is practically the national pastime in South Korea. People self-immolate; fingers are cut off; and sometimes, innocent fowl meet gruesome fates.

A July 17 demonstration was particularly unpleasant for pheasants. About two dozen former South Korean soldiers, angry about a territory dispute, showed their displeasure with Japan by beheading nine live birds outside the Japanese embassy.

And then things got weird.

According to Reuters news service, "The group, which appears frequently at protests aimed at Japan, beat the dead pheasants with hammers and hacked them with knives so their blood would run on Japanese flags that carried pictures of Japan’s prime minister. They then ripped the carcasses apart and ate livers from the freshly killed fowl."

Why so angry? Japan and South Korea have been arguing for a century over which country owns a string of islets in the Sea of Japan. Koreans call the islets Dokdo; Japan calls them Takeshima. The bird-bashing came just days after South Korea recalled its ambassador to Japan over the issue.

But the ultra-nationalists might have gotten a bit sloppy — not to mention cruel — with their anti-Japan symbolism. The green pheasant is Japan’s national bird. A few bloggers observed, though, that the slaughtered birds weren’t green pheasants at all. They were just common pheasants — and they were Korean, not Japanese.

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