South Korea pushes for ban on smoking scenes in K-Dramas

6 February 2024

By The Statesman

South Korea advocates for a global ban on smoking scenes in K-Dramas, addressing loopholes in overseas streaming platforms. The initiative aims to align regulations with the nation’s successful anti-smoking campaign.

South Korea is gearing up for a potential crackdown on smoking scenes in popular K-Dramas that are broadcast on international streaming platforms like Netflix and YouTube. The move comes as part of the government’s broader efforts to regulate tobacco-related content in media.

While domestic laws prohibit smoking and drinking scenes in dramas aired on local broadcast television, there is a significant loophole for content streamed on platforms based overseas.

To address this issue, officials from Seoul plan to raise the matter at the upcoming 10th session of the Conference of the Parties to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in Panama from Feb. 5-10.

The regulation of smoking scenes on streaming platforms has become a prominent concern in South Korea. It is because of the success of the government’s nationwide anti-smoking campaign. It includes media regulations, taxation, and education initiatives.

A report from the Korea Health Promotion Institute revealed that 87.5 percent of the 14 most popular dramas across seven streaming platforms featured tobacco products or smoking scenes.

Under the current legal framework, streaming platforms fall under the Act on Promotion of Information and Communications Network Utilization and Information Protection. This exempts them from the same restrictions imposed on broadcast television. The South Korean government aims to close this gap to ensure consistent regulations across all platforms.

During the FCTC session, South Korea plans to showcase its achievements in reducing the adult smoking rate. It had dropped from 35.1 percent in 1998 to 17.7 percent by 2022. The government’s measures include expanding non-smoking areas around educational institutions. They are implementing media guidelines, and enacting laws disclosing harmful elements of tobacco products.

“We will share our tobacco regulation achievements with the international community,” stated Jeong Yeon-hee, an official from the Health Ministry in a report. “We will also carefully consider the FCTC agenda to further strengthen domestic smoking cessation policies.”

The FCTC is the first international treaty in the sector that aims at reducing global tobacco consumption and smoking rates. This year’s session marks an in-person gathering after a five-year hiatus.

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