Gangnam smoking ban takes some getting used to

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Gangnam smoking ban takes some getting used to

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Workers from the Gangnam District Office issue a ticket to a man caught lighting up in the non-smoking area in Gangnam, Seoul, on Friday. As the Seoul Metropolitan Government began enforcing its smoking ban in the Gangnam District, violators caught smoking and the staff tasked with regulating them clashed in the southern area of Seoul. By Oh Jong-taek


About 3 p.m. on Friday on Gangnam Boulevard in Seocho District, a woman in her 20s pulled out a cigarette and lit it under a sign with information detailing the new smoking ban policy.

“Ma’am, can I see your I.D. please?” a man wearing a blue vest reading “Smoking Ban Team” said. “We should charge you a 50,000 won ($42) fine because you smoked in the restricted area.”

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The woman put out the cigarette in a hurry.

“I really didn’t know, sir,” she said. “Could you please give me one more chance? My parents don’t know that I smoke.”

As the Seoul Metropolitan Government began enforcing its smoking ban policy in the Gangnam area Friday, violators caught smoking and the staff tasked with regulating them tussled in the southern areas of Seoul.

In mid-February, the city government designated as non-smoking 934 meters (1,021 yards) of Gangnam Boulevard between exit No. 2 of Gangnam Subway Station and exit No. 5 of Sinnonhyeon Station (50,000 won fine) and 450 meters of streets around Yangjae between exit No. 12 of Yangjae Subway Station and the El Tower building (100,000 won).

The designated areas are some of the highest-traffic pedestrian regions in the country, with an average of 120,000 people visiting during the week and about 2 million people on weekends.

As the new regulation went into effect, Seoul cracked down on violators by dispatching district workers armed with digital cameras, wireless credit card machines and ticket books.

During the first weekend, the Gangnam area under the Seocho District Office’s jurisdiction saw a total of 114 violators caught and 6.05 million won in fines imposed.

“The number actually has improved very much,” Park Yong-geol, a spokesman of the Seocho District Office told the JoongAng Ilbo. “When the regulation was in the grace period, 300 people were caught every day. The number tends to go down during weekdays but rises again during weekends because more people visit the area.”

The citizens, however, complained about the regulation because the two district offices apply different rules, especially for the penalty issue. “I know about the rules, but they should standardize the fine,” a college student surnamed Hong, 24, said.

The two offices also have shown different attitudes toward the regulation.

While the Seocho office positively tried to regulate violators, the Gangnam office caught only eight smokers from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday. The Gangnam office didn’t regulate smokers on Saturday or Sunday.

By Choi Mo-ran [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]

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