Monday, January 19, 2015

Smokin' and Drinkin' in Seoul

Last year, Seoul began a pogrom, or at least a crackdown, on smoking in public places such as bars, restaurants and coffee shops. Of course, lots of such establishments already banned smoking, but this was a public ordinance. Many places also had separate smoking areas or rooms. Reading the fine print, it only applied, however, to places larger than 150 sq.m. Using fire marshal code, that means any place that seats more than 40 people.

As of January 1, 2015, the size carve-out was stricken, and smoking rooms were abolished if they did not have direct access (i.e., doors or windows) to the outside. Not to be too blunt, but smoking in a bar was always one thing in Korea's favor, in my book. Also on January 1, the price of a pack of (my brand of) cigarettes escalated from 2,700 W to 4,500W--all of it in tax. This is part of the government's "two-prong approach" to curbing cigarette use.

I don't deny cigarettes are bad for my health, and I don't object to paying a premium for insurance purposes to offset the burden on the health care system. Fine. But, and I suspect quite a lot of business owners agree with me, it's not really the place of the government to tell a business how to run itself. Those of you worried about second-hand smoke, you would do much better to outlaw using single-stroke lawnmowers. And motorcycles.

But in a very low blow, a new regulation has been passed to outlaw drinking alcohol in most public places, including parks, beaches and college campuses. Literally millions of Koreans every weekend hike up a mountain (many of them public parks) and pause at the top to guzzle a few bottles of soju before making their way down. I frankly don't see this tradition being changed.

I don't hike up mountains, so I don't give a rat's ass about that. However, I frequently sit outside of restaurants--dining al fresco--while guzzling a few bottles of soju. Some of these restaurants own that space, but others just sort of spill out onto the sidewalk. I just wonder where the line will be drawn in the enforcement.

But again, this is a Nanny State move. According to the article here, the move comes from the Ministry of Health and Welfare, who estimates that 1.6 million Koreans are "alcoholics". Yeah, riiiight!

1 comment:

Lynn F. said...

I hear you, brother. It's the same here in the States...