Seoul, South Korea, and Barkaritaville

2023 Korean Kennel Club Classic Dog Show

I have always found international judging assignments to be very enjoyable and educational. They offer the unique opportunity to see some unique breeds that may be native to that country as well as some of the differences in various breeds in that area of the world.

Due to COVID, I had not been outside the United States for some time, so I was excited when the invitation came from the Korean Kennel Club to judge at their 2023 Korean Kennel Club Classic Dog Show to be held in Seoul South Korea.


Korean Kennel Club

Traveling to various countries can be confusing, with the various entry requirements of each country. In the past, your passport was sufficient for entry into South Korea. However, since the last time I was there, they have added a Q-code requirement for COVID clearance as well as a K-ETA application to enter. I thought that I had completed the requirements, but when I arrived for my flight from Knoxville to Detroit, and then on to Seoul, I was notified there was an issue that I needed to correct. Since I could not get the issue corrected in time, my flight was delayed by one full day so that I could correct it and get the K-ETA approved for my flights.

After the 16-hour flight from Detroit to Incheon Airport in South Korea, I was met by Harley Wookhee Choi who would serve as my interpreter as well as my transportation person during my visit. Miss Choi, who is also a KKC-approved judge, had lived and studied in Arizona, so it was a joy to have someone who is so fluent in English. Communication can often be the biggest obstacle when in a foreign country, but Miss Choi made it a great experience. My accommodations were first-class and I was looking forward to my assignment on Sunday.


The Korean Kennel Club owns its facility, which is very nice, well-lit, clean, and very comfortable, especially since it was a very cold February day. I will say that the entry was excellent, with a great group of dogs. In my opinion, it was the highest overall quality I have seen in South Korea during my three assignments there through the years.

My Best Baby Puppy in Show was a very lovely Bichon Frise that has a very bright future ahead. For Best Puppy in Show, I chose a class bitch Samoyed that was a wonderful representation of the breed and would also be my Reserve Best in Show in the regular Group and Best in Show ring. My overall Best in Show was a fantastic Miniature Poodle bitch that I am sure could compete on any level in any country.

Another nice surprise for me was getting to visit Jay Kim and meeting his wife and young son, whose American name is Frank Murphy in recognition of Jay’s long-term relationship with Frank as an assistant and for his genuine love for his mentor. Unfortunately, Jay was not entered, as the family had just dealt with the tragic loss of Jay’s mother-in-law in the weeks before the show. I understand that Jay had been campaigning one of the country’s top dogs, a German Wirehaired Pointer, that had enjoyed a successful show career.

Walter Sommerfelt in South Korea

The one noticeable difference in this assignment vs. those I have judged in the past was that the number of dogs exhibited was higher in the smaller-sized breeds. I am told that it is very difficult for people who live in the city to keep many of the larger breeds, and therefore, the Toy and smaller- to mid-sized breeds have become more popular.

South Korea, like some other countries, has two governing kennel club bodies. I was judging for the Korean Kennel Club, although there is also the Korean Kennel Federation which is FCI affiliated. My understanding is that both clubs have been around for well over thirty years, and exhibitors in both organizations often import dogs from our American kennels.

Walter Sommerfelt at the 2023 Korean Kennel Club Classic Dog Show

While enjoying dinner following the show, I was told that the biggest and most frustrating obstacle for the Korean Kennel Club was that the AKC has refused to acknowledge and register dogs from their registry, telling them they only recognize one kennel club body per country. This, they say, has resticted them from working with more American breeders to import and export dogs to improve their programs. They say that, over the years, they have had many judges (as well as AKC board members) visit and judge their shows, but they have been unable to get recognition in this area.

It is very difficult to understand why in this day and age, with all the technology and DNA testing available, this issue cannot be resolved. Here in the US, the AKC has cross-registered dogs from numerous American Stud Books. Also, the NGKC and the China Kennel Union are both able to register with the AKC. In China, the NGKC, which was founded with help from the AKC, requires DNA testing before registration, while the China Kennel Union, an FCI affiliate, does not require the DNA.

It would seem to me that if both clubs are allowed AKC registration, the Korean Kennel Club should also be recognized. The KKC is well over 35 years old and has a good track record. If we are truly going to see the purebred dog world expand, we need to be more open-minded to differences that might exist politically in various countries. We need to be all about breeding and improving the health and welfare of all dog breeds in the world.

Walter Sommerfelt at the 2023 Korean Kennel Club Classic Dog Show

Many countries do not have the history of the KKC, as many clubs have been added since the fall of the old Soviet Union, yet clubs from many of those countries, including Russia, are allowed to register with AKC. (Note: Due to the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia, those privileges have been suspended for the time being.)

It should also be noted that one only needs to look at the growth of new breeds being added by the AKC to the Foundation Stock Service and Miscellaneous Class to see that each country also has native breeds that we in the US rarely see. If we are going to be adding them, we need to have access to the best that these breeds have to offer. Limiting which registry is eligible may be counter-productive.

I don’t have a vote on the matter of recognizing the Korean Kennel Club, but if I did, I can honestly say the quality of their dogs is on par with everyone else.

Walter Sommerfelt at the 2023 Korean Kennel Club Classic Dog Show

I don’t have a vote on the matter of recognizing the Korean Kennel Club, but if I did, I can honestly say the quality of their dogs is on par with everyone else.



Last month’s issue of SHOWSIGHT featured numerous photos from the most recent Medina Kennel Club “Barkaritaville” show. I was again fortunate to be called in to cover substantial overloads, as they drew huge entries for their annual two-day event. The festive nature of this show is what makes it so enjoyable for both judges and exhibitors. The island attire theme in March was a fun idea and its popularity continues to grow. I commented that, since the majority of the exhibitors try to get into the theme, the judges should refuse entry to the “traditionalists” in their coats and ties.

Sometimes we all need to just relax, let our hair down, and just have fun.

That’s it, for now. Have a great spring!

  • Walter Sommerfelt of Lenoir City, TN has been involved in the sport of purebred dogs since acquiring his first Old English Sheepdog in 1972. He is a former professional handler as well as a breeder, and exhibitor of breeds in all seven groups, most notably Vizslas, OES, Pointers, Bearded Collies and Weimaraners. Judging since 1985 he is approved for All Sporting, Working, and Herding breeds and groups, Junior Showmanship and Best in Show and has had the honor of judging on four different continents. Mr. Sommerfelt has judged many of the most prestigious shows in the United States including the herding group at the 2014 Westminster Dog Show in New York City where he has judged on three separate occasions. Mr. Sommerfelt was the founder and chairman for the St. Jude Showcase of Dogs from 1993 until 2009, a unique event showcasing the world of purebred dogs. This special event was the largest collection of various dog events in one location, featuring an AKC all Breed Dog Show, AKC Obedience and Rally Trials, AKC Agility trials, (prior to AKC adding agility NADAC trials ) One of the largest Fly ball tournaments in the U.S.A., Herding and go to ground demonstrations, A main stage featuring performances by Canines from Television and the Movies, Freestyle, Demos by drug and various therapy dogs, A full room of booths for meet the breeds, over 50 AKC judges seminars annually, Lure coursing, A fun Zone for Children, and other dog related fun activities for the general public and their dogs. Over the years the event not only raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the world-renowned St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN, but also raised awareness of the many activities for people with their dogs as well establishing a voice for dog people in the Memphis area with regard to legislation. Many aspects of today’s AKC Royal Canin show can be traced back to the St. Jude event. Along with Carol his wife of 36 years they have bred well over 90 AKC Champions including Group, Best in Show and Specialty Winners, dual Champions and multiple performance titled dogs. During the past 40 years Mr. Sommerfelt has been active in a number of dog clubs and is currently the President of the Tennessee Valley Kennel Club. He is recipient of the AKC outstanding Sportsmanship Award and is also a career agent and financial planning specialist with Nationwide Insurance. The Sommerfelts’ have two grown children, both former Junior Handlers and they are still active breeders and exhibitors of the Vizsla breed.

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