[WHAT’S ON KOREAN TV]2 stations order all cigarettes stubbed

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[WHAT’S ON KOREAN TV]2 stations order all cigarettes stubbed

Korean television stations are making New Year's resolutions a month in advance. SBS-TV on channel 6 and KBS-TV on channels 7 and 9 recently decided not to broadcast any more scenes that contain characters smoking.

Jo Dong-suk, in charge of programming at SBS, says, "Any kind of scene that promotes or even includes smoking will be strictly banished from all programming."

It's just a coincidence that SBS and KBS made the decision at the same time. The death of Lee Ju-il, a much-loved comedian, last October due to a lifetime of heavy smoking gave impetus to the anti-smoking movement. SBS issued a statement late last month that said, "We are participating in the nonsmoking movement in order to promote Koreans' health and a clean social environment."

The decision took effect on KBS on Dec. 1, and on SBS on Monday.

Smoking has been a staple of local television soap operas and miniseries since the medium began in Korea. When it comes to scenes where protagonists show their agony or sorrow, break up with their lovers, or what-have-you, smoking was the best companion to the acting.

Smoking has also been a common tool to illustrate character. Especially since the late 1990s, a woman who smokes has been identified with being open-minded and a go-getter who knows what she's doing. A number of TV actresses who in real life don't smoke had to pretend to enjoy smoking because that was how their scripts defined their characters.

What will these programs do instead, without the noxious weed? Instead of smoking, picture "an actor drinking a soft drink, with eyes tilted, or taking a deep sigh looking at the empty sky," says Mr. Jo.

MBC-TV, the other major network, remains unconcerned with this anti-smoking statement. "We haven't given a single thought about it," says a member of the production staff at MBC, "and we don't have such plans in the future."

MBC, however, must have been not so pleased to hear that KBS and SBS officials were awarded appreciation plaques from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The minister himself presented the plaques last Thursday. Park Yong-ho, in charge of juvenile policies at the Culture Ministry, says, "Considering that television is a big influence on people, especially teenagers, we expect this decision from TV stations could form a national consensus to the nonsmoking movement."

Encouraged, SBS came up with another plan, this time to attack drinking. Mr. Jo assures that drinking will be the next target to be eliminated from TV programs. Before the year ends, festive scenes where Koreans drink the nights away will be no more, at least on SBS. "This decision is to be made at least by mid-December," he says, "along with anti-drinking campaign spots."

Are these early New Year's resolutions meant to be broken? Mr. Jo says, "No way."

by Chun Su-jin

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