Smoking in South Korea
Smoking in South Korea is similar to other developed countries in the OECD, with a daily smoking rate of 22.90% in 2012 compared to the OECD average of 21.13%. However, male smoking is among the highest at 40.80% while female smoking among the lowest at 5.20%.
South Korea enforced strict smoking bans in public places from July 2013, with fines of 100,000 won on any spotted smoker and up to 5 million won on shop owners not following the law. From December 2012, smoking has been completely banned in bars and restaurants larger than 150 square meters (extended to 100 square meters from 2014), cafes, internet cafes, government buildings, kindergartens, schools, universities, hospitals, youth facilities, libraries, children's playgrounds, private academies, subway or train stations and their platforms and underground pathways, large buildings, theaters, department stores or shopping malls, large hotels and highway rest areas. More places now offer smoking areas separated by glass walls. The law has extended to bars and restaurants larger than 100 square meters since January 2014.
From 2015, South Korea will completely ban smoking on all bars, restaurants and cafes regardless of size. Cafes which are currently permitted to have smoking rooms must remove any smoking rooms by this date. From 1 January 2015, Tobacco prices will nearly double to 4,500KRW, with the prices rising every year pegged to inflation. Warning photos such as rotten teeth and lungs will be mandatory and advertising in convenience stores will be banned.
Smoking ban laws
Smoking is illegal and strictly prohibited in the following premises:
- Office, multi-use or factory buildings larger than 1,000 square meters in floor area (of which offices, conference rooms, auditorium and lobby must be smoke-free).
- Institutions larger than 1,000 square meters in floor area (of which classrooms, waiting rooms and lounges must be smoke-free).
- Shopping malls, department stores and underground malls (of which any shop selling goods must be smoke-free).
- Hotels and resorts (of which the lobby must be smoke-free).
- Universities (of which lecture rooms, lounges, auditorium, cafeteria and conference hall must be smoke-free).
- Indoor sports facilities such as basketball and volleyball courts which can seat more than 1,000 people (of which the seats and pathways must be smoke-free).
- Social welfare facilities (of which the living and working rooms, lounge, cafeteria and conference hall must be smoke-free).
- Airports, bus terminals and train stations (of which waiting rooms, domestic flights, cabins, inside trains, subway car and its platform and underground stations and underground pathways must be smoke-free).
- Any vehicle that can seat more than 16 people.
- Public baths (of which changing rooms and bathing rooms must be smoke-free).
- Game arcades, comic book renting shops and internet cafes.
- Restaurants such as cafes, fast food restaurants and bakeries.
- Baseball or football stadiums which can seat more than 1,000 people (of which the seats and pathways must be smoke-free).
- Kindergartens, primary and secondary schools.
- Hospitals and health centers.
- All parks owned by Seoul city.
- All bus stops.
- Cheonggye plaza at the beginning of Cheongyecheon and Gwanghwamun plaza.
- Insa-dong street.
- Both sides of the road between Gangnam Station and Sinnonhyeon Station.
- The area surrounding Jamsil Station which includes Lotte World, Lotte World Tower, Songpa-gu Office, Galleria Palace apartments and entrance to Seokchon Lake.
- Namdaemun street around Myeong-dong.
- Both sides of the road between Yeouido Station and Yeouinaru Station.
- Yeongdeungpo Station plaza and both sides of the National Assembly road (2.1km).
- Both sides of the road around the Daechi-dong academy town.
- Festivals street in Mok-dong around Happy department store.
- Streets around the entrance of Hankuk University of Foreign Studies and Kyung Hee University.
- Entrance to subway stations in Gwanak District.
- Seongbuk and Jeongneung streams, Hanaro street, Amazon street near Mia Elementary School.
In addition to the nationwide ban laws, several cities designate the following areas must be smoke-free:
- Wolmi-do culture street in Incheon.
- All bus stops, areas around schools, Lake Park and Hwarang pleasure ground in Ansan.
- All bus stops, areas around schools and city parks in Seongnam.
- The entire Busan Citizens' Park.
- Dongseong street in Daegu.
- Noeun Station and Yuseong Culture Park in Daejeon's Yuseong District.
Prevalence and effects
Reports suggest that persistently high rates of smoking in the military contribute to the high incidence of male smoking, and negate the efficacy of anti-smoking measures, as many men start smoking during their mandatory 2-year military service. The Public Health Graduate School of Yonsei University completed a 13-year medical study on 1.2 million patients and found that about 73% of male smokers and 18% of female smokers contracted lung cancer. There is rising awareness of the health effects of tobacco. The economy of South Korea loses more than 10 trillion won a year in terms of health-care expenses and lost man-hours due to smoking-related illness.
South Korean smoking etiquette
Local smoking etiquette in South Korea is influenced by Confucianism. For instance, smokers generally refrain from, or seek permission before lighting up in the presence of social superiors; a social superior could be a boss, professor, parents, grandparents, or teacher.
In a 2007 Korean Gallup Study, around 84% of Koreans believed females should not smoke. Females were considered of lesser class than males in older days and it was disturbing to see females openly smoke in public. While it was more socially acceptable for men to smoke, females had to smoke in secret including public washrooms and bars. However, as the Korean society is becoming more open, the perception towards female smokers has altered.
- Robert Neff Korea and “The World No-Tobacco Day”, June 1, 2010
- "Tobacco in South Korea". euromonitor. Aug 2010. Retrieved 2011.
- Turnbull, James (2010-06-06). "The Gender Politics of Smoking in South Korea: Part 1". koreabridge.