Seoul, Feb 7 (Yonhap) Choi Hak-young, a 37-year-oldoffice worker in Seoul, grew up seeing people smoking justabout everywhere in South Korea, including at subway stationsand even on city buses and airplanes.
Today, South Korea is no longer a smokers'' haven. Thesocial environment of smoking has changed so much over theyears, and smokers like Choi too often find themselvesunwelcome almost everywhere in the country.
Such changes have come rather slowly as if thoseenforcing them were careful enough not to alert those whomight oppose them, namely, smokers.
"I''ve really had no problem with any new laws orregulations on smoking, but it feels like they have changed itbit by bit and now they add up so much," Choi said in aninterview.
Choi complains that he can''t even smoke from the windowof his own apartment anymore because his neighbors next dooror upstairs will complain about smoke coming in through theirwindows.
"I do understand people who do not smoke do not like tobe around people who do, but that does not mean those whosmoke must suffer," he fumed. "Smoking certainly is not acrime."South Korea''s smoking rate for people aged 19 or older stoodat 39.6 percent last year, down from 43.1 percent a yearearlier but still way above the average of the Organizationfor Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) membernations, which recorded 27.3 per cent in 2008.
South Korea hopes to bring its smoking rate down to theOECD level within the coming years.
Smokers in big cities like the capital Seoul face moredifficulty in finding places to enjoy smoking.
Under its latest ordinance set to go into effect on March1, the Seoul city government has designated 23 new publicparks and 295 bus stops where smoking will be banned.(Yonhap)