Since 1 January 2015, smoking is no longer allowed in restaurants, cafes or bars, regardless of their size. In these establishments, the owner can still opt for installing closed booths for smokers, by following the standards determined by the Ministry of Health.
At the same time, the following facilities have become completely smoke-free, with no designated smoking area allowed:
– Government offices; public institutions; schools; health-care facilities; child nursing facilities; private institutes; office buildings; factories and multipurpose buildings which are with a floor area of 1,000? and more;
– Public transport facilities, including lobbies, platforms and underground passages in airports, ferry and railway stations, bus terminals; other types of transportation with more than 16 seats; children transport vehicles.
– Youth activity centres, libraries, childrens play facilities; theatres with more than 300 seats, large stores; underground shopping malls; tourist accommodations; sports facilities whose capacity is more than 1,000 spectators; welfare facilities, public baths; game software suppliers targeting both youth and adults, internet computer game facilities and multimedia game content facilities; large restaurants, cafeteria and bakeries, comic book stores.
In restaurants, in the case of owners violation against law, KRW 1.7 million fine is to be applied for the first offence, which increases to KRW 2.3 million for the second and KRW 5 million for the third offence. In regard to individual smokers infringement of the law, KRW 100,000 will be imposed.
The Republic of Korea began to take action on tobacco nearly 30 years ago. In 1986, tobacco manufacturers were mandated to put warnings on cigarette packs, and the first regulations to prevent exposure to tobacco smoke date back to 1995. Since then, the Government has steadily expanded its no-smoking policy, and providing funds for programmes helping smokers to quit.
Milestone changes have been implemented more recently. Smoking in restaurants, cafes and bars 150 square meters or larger was banned in 2012, and Internet cafes were made smoke-free in June 2013.
The average price of cigarettes has also steadily increased, from 531 won per pack in 1990 to a little over 2,500 won as of 2011. The largest price increase is to come in 2015, with cigarette prices increasing by 2,000 won per pack to about 4,500 won.
The Korean National Health Promotion Act is available (in Korean language) at: http://www.law.go.kr/lsInfoP.do?lsiSeq=165321&efYd=20150101#0000. Article 9 of the Act refers to smoke-free environments.