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Smoking in South Korea

Smoking in South Korea is similar to other developed countries in the OECD, with a daily smoking rate of 19.9% in 2013 compared to 20.9% in Germany and 19.3% in Japan.[1] However, male smoking is among the highest at 36.2% while female smoking by far the lowest at 4.3%.[1] The South Korean government aims to reduce the male smoking rate to the OECD average of 29% by 2020 by making the country one of the world's most difficult places to smoke,[2] using a combination of significant price hikes, mandatory warning photos on cigarette packs, advertising bans, financial incentives and medical help for quitting along with a complete smoking ban in public places including all bars, restaurants and cafes.[3]

South Korea enforced strict smoking bans in public places since 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. It is illegal to smoke in all bars and restaurants, 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. The strict bans came into force gradually beginning with a ban on places larger than 150 square meters in 2012, extended to 100 square meters in 2014, with a full-fledged complete nationwide ban on 1 January 2015.[4]

Historical background

Smoking arrived in Korea in the early 1600s from Japan[5] and until around 1880, both men and women smoked.[6]


Since 1 January 2015, South Korea has completely banned smoking on all bars, restaurants and cafes regardless of size, including any smoking rooms. Any spotted smoker must pay fines of 100,000 won and up to 5 million won on shop owners not obeying the law.[4] Anyone can report a smoker via calling or sending a text message to a government hotline (in the case of Seoul, the number is 120) with their location address and authorities will raid the reported place, of which a picture of the offending smoker will be taken and fined 100,000 won. Disguised authorities also secretly check random places at random times for offending smokers.

Since 1 January 2015, tobacco prices have nearly doubled to an average of ₩4,500 KRW, and it is illegal to advertise misleading claims such as "light", "mild", "low tar" or "pure" on cigarette packs.[7][8]

From December 2016, warning photos such as rotten teeth and black lungs will be mandatory on all cigarette packs.[9]

Discussion is under way at the National Assembly to pass a law that will raise the prices every year pegged to inflation.[10] The government will pass a law in 2015 to completely ban any form of advertising of cigarettes in convenience stores and make it illegal for tobacco companies to sponsor cultural or sport events.[11]


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.
  • Bars, restaurants, cafes, fast food restaurants and bakeries, regardless of size.
  • Baseball or football/soccer 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.
  • Nurseries.
  • Taxis.[12]


In addition to the nationwide ban laws, Seoul designates the following areas must be smoke-free and any spotted smoker must pay a fine of 100,000 won:[13]

Other regions

In addition to the nationwide ban laws, several cities designate the following areas must be smoke-free:

Financial and medical help for quitting

People who have successfully quit smoking will receive 50,000 to 150,000 KRW as a financial incentive from the government. A 12-week medical help program for quitting is provided at a heavily subsidised cost of 5,000KRW upon the first treatment, reduced to 3,000KRW thereafter. Smoking cessation aids such as bupropion, varenicline and nicotin patches are handed out for free at any participating medical center nationwide. Anyone in need of consulting smoking cessation can dial a hotline and consult a doctor or specialist.[31]

Residents of Seoul's Seocho District will receive a 5 million KRW cash prize if they have successfully quit smoking.[32]

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.[citation needed] There is rising awareness of the health effects of tobacco.[33] 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.[citation needed]

Eight out of ten teenagers were found to think they should not smoke by looking at cigarette pack warning pictures. According to the Center for Disease Control, 83.1% of teenagers who know cigarette warning pictures responded that they thought smoking cigarettes should not be allowed to smoke. The health authorities have announced that they will replace the cigarette warning label in December and will include a picture symbolizing 'carcinogenicity' in cigarette-type electronic cigarette packs.[34]

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;[35] a social superior could be a boss, professor, parent, grandparent, or teacher.

See also


  1. ^ a b "Health risks - Daily smokers - OECD Data".
  2. ^ 2014/08
  3. ^ "10년만의 담뱃값 2000원 인상.."흡연률 29%로 낮추겠다"".
  4. ^ a b KIM BONG-MOON, New Year brings in smoking ban January 1, 2015
  5. ^ Lankov 2007, p. 107.
  6. ^ Lankov 2007, p. 109.
  7. ^ "South Korea seeks near-doubling of cigarette price - BBC News".
  8. ^ Newsis,. "새해 첫달 모든 음식점 금연 등 212개 법령 시행:: 공감언론 뉴시스통신사 ::".
  9. ^ (in Korean) 담뱃갑 경고그림 의무화, 13년만에 국회 통과 조세일보 2015/06
  10. ^ (in Korean) 여권,물가 오른 만큼 담뱃값 올리겠다…흡연 억제 목적 Archived 2015-01-07 at the Wayback Machine 2015-01-04
  11. ^ "편의점 內 '담배 광고' 금지… 올 상반기 法개정".
  12. ^ "No smoking in taxi".
  13. ^ [][permanent dead link]
  14. ^ "지하철 입구 주변서 흡연하면 10만 원 과태료 문다".
  15. ^ a b "서초구, 금연거리 연장 통해 금연구역 5500여 개소 늘어".
  16. ^ a b "한국아이닷컴!". Archived from the original on 2014-04-29.
  17. ^ MoneyToday. "서울 송파구, 잠실역 사거리 금연구역 확대 - 머니투데이 뉴스".
  18. ^ a b "국회대로·여의도공원·영등포역 금연거리로".
  19. ^ "서울 강남구, 금연구역 흡연시 과태료 부과".
  20. ^ "양천구 금연교육 교실로".
  21. ^ "대학가 금연거리 실효성 논란 - 한국대학신문". 13 January 2014.
  22. ^ Newsis,. "성북구, 가로변버스정류소 금연구역 지정:: 공감언론 뉴시스통신사 ::".
  23. ^ "[수도권]경기도의회 "아파트 복도-계단도 금연구역으로"".
  24. ^ "월미도 문화의 거리 '금연거리 말뿐'".
  25. ^ "안산시 공공장소 금연 홍보 캠페인 전개".
  26. ^ []
  27. ^ "5월 1일 개장을 앞둔 부산시민공원 금연구역 지정".
  28. ^ []
  29. ^ "대전일보 :: 대전 유성구 금연거리 조성".
  30. ^ "군포, 중심상업지역 주요 보도 금연구역 지정".
  31. ^ "대통령 한마디에…복지부 "금연 성공땐 인센티브 5만~10만원"". 16 January 2015.
  32. ^ "[르포]담뱃값 인상 20일째…'한 대에 무너져요'".
  33. ^ "Tobacco in South Korea". euromonitor. Aug 2010. Retrieved 2011. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  34. ^ 주, 홍철 (2018-06-01). "Smoking cigarette warning picture, prevention of smoking in 83% of youth". 금강일보. Retrieved 2018-06-01.
  35. ^ Turnbull, James (2010-06-06). "The Gender Politics of Smoking in South Korea: Part 1". koreabridge.

Works cited

External links