Smoking Ban: The Era of Korea as a Smoker`s Paradise Soon Coming to an End

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Since there are very few places in Korea where you can’t light up, smokers have come to love the place. Those days are soon coming to an end as strict new laws kick in at the end of this month and the era of the public smoking ban hits Korean shores.

BUSAN, South Korea -- Korea, for better or worse, has long been a smoker’s paradise. You can light up just about anywhere in the ROK with little worry of repercussion either legally or socially.

Well, those days (and nights) are soon coming to an end as the six-month grace period for the country’s strict new public smoking laws come into effect at the end of this month. And when we say “strict”, we mean strict.

Starting July 1, owners of restaurants, cafes and bars with ground space of more than 15 square meters will be hit with penalties of up to 5 million won (US$4,480) if their customers are found lighting up on the premises.

The first offense by businesses allowing customers to smoke will be 1.7 million won, the second 3.3 million and then the big 5 million smack-down kicks in for the third.

The government has promised it will not take the law lightly and will begin routine crackdowns once the new regulations take effect, including regular patrols stopping into businesses establishments for a look and sniff of the atmosphere.

Not only are businesses being targeted with fines, but so are the smokers themselves. If caught smoking outside designated public smoking areas, those puffing up will be dinged with a 100,000 won ($89) fine for their nicotine fix.

An association of Internet cafe owners, called the PC Room Owners' Coalition for Survival, has called on the government to delay enforcement of the law to 2015. The group fears that the smoking ban will force nearly 40 percent of Internet cafe owners out of business.

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