Friday, December 14, 2012

Nosmo King, Inaction Man

December 8th, 2012, was a red-letter day in Korea. Korea welcomed itself into the list of countries that qualify as "nanny-states", those states that deign to tell people what they can and cannot do for their own good. A smoking ban was enacted in bars and restaurants.

(Full disclosure: Tuttle smokes. Not during the ordinary course of a day, really. But certainly two with my Diet Coke, er Coke Light, first thing in the morning, maybe three. And if I'm drinking of an evening, all bets are off. If I'm not having alcohol, however, I'm unlikely to light up.) (Oh, except if I'm having a Caramel Frappucino at Caffe Bene: I smoke then, too.) (Or if I'm driving a car. Which isn't an issue in Seoul, but it was when I was visiting the States in August, and had a rental with a circle-and-a-slash symbol on the ashtray.) (Fine. I hung one out the window a few times. I was careful though. Whatever.)

When I say a smoking ban was enacted on December 8th, I really mean: not so much. For example, the recently-opened Beerking hof across the street from my officetel still had ashtrays on the tables when I dropped in two days later. On the other hand, that place has eleven tables, and may fit one of the exceptions to the new law, of being under 100 sq. m. of serving area.

However, when I met up with my weeknight dinner regulars at a well-known izakaya in Gang-seo-gu-cheong earlier this week, I was disappointed to see a photocopied circle-and-a-slash cellotaped to the front door. I complained to the sajangnim that this new law is kind of silly and they should at least have a smoking section--it is after all, an extensive establishment well-over the 150-m2 mandated for pulmonary protection of the pissants. When she brought me my beer, she slid an ashtray across to me as well. In fact, we soon noticed that almost every table in the place had at least one smoker lighting up with impunity, and, may I say, relish.

As we left Warawara the izakaya, my friends noted they were living up to the law, in some interpretation, at least: there was a small glass-enclosed booth labeled "Non-smoking Area" with two tables in it. (Alas, I wonder if in 2015, when they start actually handing out fines, smokers won't be on the inside looking out.)

Our dinner round that night was at a similarly-sized place where we enjoyed gabeurisal cooked on a grill at our table, with carcinogen-laden charcoal smoke leaching into the atmosphere despite the fume hoods that are so ubiquitous in Korean barbeque. That being so, they didn't have the gumption to tell anyone smoking is not allowed. Even though it isn't.


Lynn F. said...

Interesting post, and I'm curious to know what you think about the election results yesterday. By the way, I've been placed in Seoul (through EPIK) and was wondering if you'll be teaching through 2013. If so, perhaps we could meet and you could fill me in on a few things.

Tuttle said...

I thought the results were in line with expectations--Mrs Park represents an appealing combination of old guard and forward-looking to a lot of people. I was more interested in the Seoul Minister of Education election, which went to Moon Yong-lin, whose stance is basically pro-NSET.

Congrats on your placement, Seoul is a great city. My contract ends in August 2013, and my present plan is to re-up. Gimme a holler when you arrive. (My comments are moderated, so I won't publish your personal contact information.)

Lynn F. said...

Okay, I'll be in touch in February. In the meantime, I'll do some googling in regards to Moon Yong-lin.
Thanks for your terrific blog!