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Smoking in Korea

By Smudger @ChristopherSm73
Smoking in KoreaThere are a few things I dislike about Korea but nothing irks me quite like smoking.  I have always hated the habit right from a small child when my father smoked.  I can remember warning him that it was unhealthy and even threatening him with pouring a bucket of water over his head when he was failing to quit.  He was not amused with this and retaliated with, 'you had better not!'
In the end he did quit but it wasn't because he heeded my warnings, he actually ended up having a heart attack in his early fifties.  This was the kick up the backside he needed and has been fit and healthy ever since, and quite spritely looking for a now 67 year-old, I hope I inherit his anti-aging formula.
In England, thesedays, smoking it pretty much banned in all public places, with bars being the most controversial of these places.  Outside business premises, bars, and restaurants it is always possible to see a group of people huddled together enjoying a cigarette or two, sometimes shivering away in the winter months.  English people also rarely smoke while walking along the street or outside shops.  This is great for me as I never feel more unhealthy than when I am sucking in the dreadful stench of someone else's cigarette smoke. 
It is no secret in the Western community that many Korean men are not always the best in the manners department, so when you combine this with smoking, things become even more frustrating.  They hang around on street corners blowing smoke in your face, smoke profusely in restaurants, in bars, and most annoyingly of all, in toilets.  I am sure every single toilet in Korea smells of smoke, the combination of smoke and urine creates an almost uniquely disgusting odour.
The inappropiateness of the location of the toilet also does not stop them.  Teachers smoke in the toilets at my high school, while unleashing their fury at any students caught doing the same.  This strikes me as a tad hypocritical and not worthy of the respect of the students that they demand.  I was especially horrified when one day in my local gym, the toilet - right next to the workout area - was being utilized by three men for a fag (cigarettes for you Americans, not homosexuals) break in between their weight training sets.  I desperately needed the toilet so had to wade through a cloud of smoke and made my feelings known by coughing very loudly the whole time (although I found it extremely difficult to pee while coughing).
The ban on smoking in all enclosed public spaces came into effect in England on July 1st 2007.  Since that date I have enjoyed going out with my friends for the odd drink a lot more.  I am not a big drinker, and sometimes I have just decided to go out and drink water, but still be social.  This can be done in England because I then go home feeling fine and without stinking like an ashtray. 
Smoking in KoreaIn Korea, however, no such ban is in place but I hear that there are rumours the government want to introduce one by 2015.  It appears that they are starting to get tough on smoking in Korea.  Too late for me, as I will be returning home next year, so I guesss I will have to suffer for one more year. 
In an interesting article I read recently on smoking in Korea,( it said that some Korean companies were taking smoking into account when handing out promotions at work, trying to discourage people to smoke.  While I praise the motivation behind such a move, I do not approve of their tactics as it sounds awfully authoritarian.  What people do with their lives is entirely up to them, they can smoke if they want to and it should not affect their promotion chances, but their smoking should not affect others detrimentally.
I try to avoid smoky places whenever possible in Korea, and this means that I rarely venture out for nights out in bars and clubs.  The reason I avoid these places is purely because of the smoking, which I now have an even greater loathing for.  This probably makes me less social in Korea than I should be with my fellow English teachers, because bars are really the principle place to meet people and socialise.
The final straw for me (and probably the reason behind this rant) came a couple of weeks ago while having a drink with my mother in-law as part of her birthday celebrations.  I had got up early to exercise that day at 5.30am as I knew I had no time to do it later, I had an extra English class after work and I was busy the whole day.  I had to psyche myself up for possibly a long night with the in-laws, which I managed quite well.  After a pleasant dinner we arrived at an empty, quite pretty little bar for a few gentle drinks.  I was tired but in a good mood, but then about five separate groups of men entered and every single one of them started smoking.  I felt horrible fairly immediately, as I now have zero-tolerance to smoking.  I made my feelings known but I had to stay for a little while longer. 
By the time it was ready to leave I was very fed up, feeling unhealthy, and my clothes stunk.  When I got back to my apartment building someone had been smoking in the lift, so that stunk, and then when I walked in the door, someone had been smoking on the balcony above us and because we had our doors open the apartment stunk of smoke.  To rub salt into the wounds even the toilet in my apartment smelt of smoke because we share the same air vents as other people in the building, and obviously somebody somewhere had been smoking in their toilet, so that stunk too.
There are many people in England that want the smoking ban reversed, they say it is their human right to be able to smoke and that it is a factor in the closing down of many pubs.  Well, I am sorry, what smokers are essentially doing by smoking around other people who do not smoke is showing they don't give a damn about their rights or for their health.  Smoking in private is fine, a person's health is their own business and if they do not mind risking illness that is up to them.  Smoking around others, however, is selfish and irresponsible behavior.  I am not a fan of big government, telling it's citizens what to do, but a smoking ban is necessary to protect the rights of people who want to be healthy from those who care about as much for other people's health as they do for their own.
Smoking in KoreaI love the proverb, 'The shoe that fits one pinches another.  There is no perfect recipe to life', however, some people's idea of a perfect fit hurts others.  This is what laws are for, to protect people from harm by others and is the reason that governments around the world that are enforcing smoking bans in public are doing the right thing.  I wish Korea could speed up the process.

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