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Since being founded in 2017, Korean K9 Rescue has rescued more than 1,200 dogs each year.

By Chad Taylor
March 23, 2021
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The inimitable Awkwafina adopted a new furry friend—a sweet shelter dog who came from a very special place.

"Everyone, meet Haeng-Un Lum, new to America and the newest member of my family," the 32-year-old Nora From Queens and Raya and the Last Dragon star said in an Instagram post celebrating the 2-year-old pup. Awkwafina then goes on to explain how she met Haeng-Un Lum through a nonprofit based in her home borough of Queens, called Korean K9 Rescue (KK9R). 

Founded in 2017 by Gina Boehler, Korean K9 Rescue's mission is rescuing dogs from Boehler's native South Korea and bringing them to NYC for fostering and adoption, where the former strays have a better chance of finding a forever home. So far, KK9R has rescued and adopted out more than 1,200 dogs each year. 

KK9R has established a network of volunteers in Korea who negotiate directly with farmers and shelter owners, securing the dogs and taking them to KK9R facilities where they can be quarantined and examined.

Boehler tells Daily Paws that the dogs enter their rescue facility in Bundang, Korea for a minimum of 30 days before flying to the U.S. for adoption. "Depending on the dog's needs, they could end up staying much longer if they have health issues or need extended rehabilitation training with our trainers."

Staff members assess each dog to see whether they need more time to decompress or tutoring on training skills such as how to walk with a leash. If they require medical attention or need time to recover away from other animals, the KK9R facility allows for that, too.

"They're given structure, routine, and a consistent schedule that allows them to feel safe and acclimate to the humans handling them," Boehler says. She adds that KK9R's South Korea rescue location is state-of-the-art—maybe even the most modern one in the country. "All of our dogs live indoors in a modern, climate-controlled facility with nutritious, high-quality food."

The work doesn't stop once the dogs arrive stateside. Everyone from KK9R—volunteers, prospective foster parents, and adoption applicants—is given training and support in caring for dogs who've been rescued from traumatic and stressful environments. In fact, the KK9R team in New York attends at least two seminars or workshops each year with trainers who specialize in rehabilitating fearful and feral dogs, Boehler says.

Adopting any dog can be a period of adjustment, even more so for first-time adopters. However, these pups have been through a lot in their short lives, and they need an especially steady, supportive hand.

"Most of our dogs have never lived indoors with humans before, let alone in a busy city like NYC. Some are feral and have had little socialization with others early on in life, much less a positive association to humans," Boehler says. "... Training in the early days of placement into a new home has been key to setting up our dogs for success and keeping them in forever homes. We are so proud of our adopters and trainers for putting in the hard work!"

White Jindo mix-breed puppy sitting on outdoor set of stairs
Credit: Courtesy of Korean K9 Rescue / Instagram

Originally, KK9R fostered and adopted dogs exclusively in the New York metro. In February of this year, they expanded their adoption radius to include Westchester and Dutchess counties in New York, as well as parts of Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, plus Washington D.C. KK9R hopes to continue to expand in the future, but because these puppers require such special attention, Boehler wants to make sure the program grows in the right way.

"[KK9R believes] in foster-based adoptions," she says. "We want to build a foster network in some cities first before expanding. We plan to keep growing our rescue responsibly and educate and spread awareness about our mission."

For her part, Awkwafina is happy to help spread awareness of KK9R's message through her own participation, and Haeng-Un Lum already seems supremely happy with a new human companion as well as a new furry buddy at home to hang with—Awkwafina's beloved cat, Gus.

"She is such a genuinely compassionate person," Boehler says of the actor and comedian. "Her choosing to adopt her Korean dog in NYC did make a powerful impact, especially on her supporters who already knew she is a huge supporter of the charity and nonprofit groups."

It's a groundswell of attention that Boehler hopes can help further KK9R's mission and bring even more of these very special dogs to the US and to new, happy lives. 

"Hopefully, we can reach and inspire people to adopt a dog no matter where they are from and continue to spread the message of all mistreated animals in need of a forever home."