Something You Just Shouldn’t Do

There’s some good advice over at Goldbrick in Seoul about not doing drugs while you in Korea:

Don’t do drugs. If you do them, don’t come to Korea and do drugs here. Wait until you’re back in Canada, or the Netherlands, San Francisco, Seattle, or wherever it is that trained you to think there are no consequences to violating drug laws. Combating drugs is a big deal to the Korean government, and picking on relatively defenseless and isolated potsmoking teachers is a lot easier than catching violent criminals. We understand that college campuses, dance clubs and gay bathhouses (not that there’s anything wrong with that) are full of hip Korean people who are carefree about their drug use, but don’t let that lull you into a false sense of security. For most of our criminal clients, $10,000 is about all they could save in a year of cup ramyeon lunches. And although we’ll try like hell to keep you out of jail, it’s possible that the effort will be for nought. Don’t throw away your future over a momentary high.

Everything he says makes good sense, if you ask me. Some people might think that it’s bad, or mean, or nasty, or an infringement on their privacy or freedom.

Well, that’s life in another country, especially a conservative, ostensibly Confucian one. The old gwallishil ajeoshis on the apartment intercoms at 6 a.m. and the endless questions of, “Are you married?” and strict drug laws are of a piece, all connected culturally.

Since you’re an outsider who is stereotypically better off than the average person here (and look at your holiday days and pay alone if you think otherwise), and you’re a relatively defenseless outsider at that, you’re a prime target for scapegoating. In a society like Korea, where suspicion of outsiders is pretty endemic, that puts you in a very sticky position. If you go about breaking laws, you’re an idiot.

There are plenty of laws that are never enforced, and which you can break with impunity, of course: parking like an idiot, visiting brothels, being drunk in public… but doing drugs here really is not one of them.

I read an article that claimed that the Korean law enforcement in certain areas, especially near Seoul, is focusing on catching foreign drug users; that in instances, information that could have led to the arrest of major local Korean dealers was ignored because the cops preferred to bust foreigners, because ideologically drugs are considered a “foreigner problem” here in Korea.

Is that racist? Of course. Don’t whine about it. If you want freedom to take drugs, go somewhere else. There are plenty of places for you to go and do this where it’s still illegal but you probably won’t be punished.

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