Marijuana – A Risky Pastime in South Korea
Something that many of us don’t think about before we leave our home countries to teach abroad is – different countries have very different laws.
Things that we take for granted as being “not really a big deal” can carry steep penalties when we are outside of our home countries.
A big one – marijuana use. For many in North America it just makes the list of controlled substances with the use of medicinal marijuana being somewhat commonplace and mostly accepted – in Canada at least.
Hop on the plane from here to South Korea and everything changes. Cannabis use, in all forms, is strictly forbidden in South Korea and you risk imprisonment and hefty fines if you are caught. Something else that is different – you do not have to be found in possession of it. Police have the right to search you anytime they choose and they will test your urine or hair follicles for the presence of THC. If it’s there – well….that’s it, you’re off to prison.
The Korean DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) have even been known to enter clubs and do hair follicle or urine tests on the spot to determine if you have any drugs in your system. If you do, no questions, no time, you’re done.
We have heard reports from one of our teachers that a fellow teacher of his was busted by the Korean police for marijuana. Apparently he had been teaching in Korea for six years and had a job at a university, which is the most coveted type of position. That gravy train has come to an end for him. No more 8 month working year for good pay. No more cheap Asian travel. No more good, cheap Korean food.
We cannot confirm it but we were told that he was sentenced…to twenty years. Yes…there may have been extenuating circumstances, it may have been from something more than just testing positive for THC but the fact remains that it is a risky endeavor to partake in cannabis use in South Korea.
There is a lesson in all of this. When you are living abroad, don’t screw around. If you don’t know the laws where you are – find out! Here’s a first hand account of someone that was randomly tested due to social affiliations and thrown in prison – Click here to read article
Like South Korea, laws are different other countries in Asia and South America and whether you understand them or not doesn’t matter – they are enforced. In 2005 a Canadian ESL teacher Taiwan was charged with drug possession and faced the death penalty. He was caught with more than just marijuana but it certainly shows how the laws differ – Click here to read article
Don’t waste the best years of your life on something as simple or stupid as smoking pot in another country. The rules and levels of acceptance are different in the West but you’re there, not here.