≡ Menu

Korea and “The World No-Tobacco Day”

 

It is no secret that cigarettes (especially counterfeit) play a big part in North Korea’s economy – see Time,  North Korea Economy Watch, but they are not a part of Kim Jong-il’s life.  KJI is apparently leading the charge for good health.  Once a heavy smoker who preferred menthols, he gave up the nasty habit in 2007 on the advice of his doctors. 

According to the Sydney Morning Herald (May 1, 2010) he is one of the few leaders in Asia to not smoke:

Asia’s gathering health crisis from smoking cries out for more examples from the top. Unfortunately, the region’s only leader really coming out strongly against smoking so far is Kim Jong-il of North Korea.

But is he?

The Heritage Foundation (April 7, 2010) isn’t quite so sure.

Initial judgments about Kim’s health have been reassessed as a result of Kim’s August 2009 meetings with former President Bill Clinton and Hyundai Chairwoman Hyun Jung-eun, during which the North Korean leader was described as robust and in full control of his faculties, but there are continuing concerns about Kim’s health, and a sudden collapse is possible at any time. Life expectancy for stroke victims is low, particularly for someone like Kim, who has resumed smoking and drinking.

The Heritage Foundation might have been referring to the incident in which KJI took a drag or two from a cigarette while reviewing a cigarette manufacturing plant.  According to Yonhap (February 25, 2009) and here:

Kim, believed to have quit smoking years ago on his doctors’ advice, is shown in two North’s Korean Central News Agency photos taking a puff while touring a northwestern cigarette factory. With one glove off, Kim takes a pull on a cigarette while accompanying officials watch him with amused smiles. In the other photo, he exhales smoke, apparently giving a word to officials, which one of them writes down in a notepad.

Of course, many people fall off the wagon once or twice and KJI is no exception.  According to  KJI’s Japanese sushi cook:

When I lined up the Japanese cigarettes on the baccarat table, Kim Jong Il smoked only the menthol kinds. At the time, he had been smoking a British brand called Rothmans Royals, but he said he had wanted to try Japanese menthols as well. After that he smoked Cartier menthols, but from 1998 to 1999 he quit smoking altogether.

As we all know, North Korea is filled with contradictions.  Apparently there is an anti-smoking movement spreading throughout the North.  France 24 (May 31, 2010) reports:

Speakers at a Pyongyang event marking World No-Tobacco Day stressed the increasing social concern over the practice, the official news agency reported.

The agency, in a separate report, noted that a non-smoking campaign has intensified, with smoking banned in theatres, cinemas, schools, hospitals, sidewalks and other public places.

Violators in the hardline state “are exposed to legal sanctions,” it said without elaborating.

The country’s best-known convert is leader Kim Jong-Il, a former heavy smoker who was reportedly advised by his doctors in 2007 to quit because of heart problems. A smoking ban was imposed at all the venues he visits.

The Seoul government is not to be out done and can actually claim to be leading the way – providing the bill passes.  According to the Korea Times (March 22, 2010):

“I suggested the bill to protect pregnant women and children from second-hand smoke on streets and at other public spaces,” Park Hee-sung, a city councilor, said. “It also secures the right to smoke by designating smoking areas.”

According to a survey by the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs last year, nearly 60 percent of respondents complained about second-hand smoke in public areas. More than 66 percent had complaints about second-hand smoke on streets and 62 percent in restaurants.

The bill would affect public areas such as streets, parks, plazas and outside of municipal buildings. These areas would be required to set up a separate smoking section.

I wonder where all these Korean high school juniors are smoking (Korea Times, May 31, 2010)?

  • Andrew

    In China, Korea, and Japan the tobacco companies used to be, or are, government monopolies.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KT%26G

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smoking_in_Japan

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/China_National_Tobacco_Corp

  • R. Elgin

    I think the government here realized that the toll on the health care system would be far more than the money they make selling cigarettes, especially considering the aging population.

  • gangpehmoderniste

    Is the Dear Bastard clinically insane ?

  • gangpehmoderniste

    In China, Korea, and Japan the tobacco companies used to be, or are, government monopolies

    Same in Europe and i think in many other places…i always found a bit mmh how to say ? peculiar that governments heavily sanctioning the consumption and trade of drugs either sell directly tobacco and alcohol products or collect lucrative levies on it.

    I also find kinda interesting how in Korea an extreme attention (at times bordering on obsession) with physical fitness and well being can so easily coexist with widespread self-destructive behaviour, well probably it’s a typical trait of industrialised societies, i guess

  • gangpehmoderniste

    I think the government here realized that the toll on the health care system would be far more than the money they make selling cigarettes, especially considering the aging population

    Good point Elgin but curiously enough a few years ago some lobby groups (caveat emptor indeed) in different nations (Netherlands and Czech come to mind) produced some research where they showed the opposite is true: destructive behaviours like smoking should be encouraged by Governments cos by shortening the life expectancy of individuals they provide enormous savings for the pension system.

    Also the money the healthcare system fork over to take care of smokers/obese people/junkies etc. is more than made up for by the savings provided by having less healthy 80somethings all of a sudden developing Alzheimer and other diseases associated with old age.

    Wonder where the truth lies

  • YBT199

    Marmot,

    Could you please ask Robert Neff to stop using his “Click to continue” button on his stories.

    On the one hand, this kind of trick is irritating in the same way that some news sites make you click through twelve pages to read their articles (either to widen their advertisement potential or just through shitty design.)

    On the other hand, it is also a reminder of how some of your contributors do their best to hijack your site and impose their own formats when you offer them some space.

    While you are pretty tolerant when it comes to idiots posting on your site, from my point of view, it wouldn’t hurt to exert a little authority over guests trying to take control of the style of your web log. No-one accepts uninvited guests peeing on their carpet. Invited guests doing the same is not much better.

  • Above Criticism

    YBT199, that is a very peculiar comment.

    Without doubt, some of the Hole’s guest contributors are deserving of scorn, but Robert Neff is unquestionably not one of them.

  • http://briandeutsch.blogspot.com Brian D

    I dislike when bloggers use the “read more” tag on every post, or truncate feeds in order to generate more hits and a few extra cents from Google. But when used extremely sparingly, I think “click to continue” or “read more” is perfectly fine. It’s better it used on extremely long or extremely off-topic posts, though.

  • inkevitch

    Gangpeh, the smokers still contribute the chronic illness burden, but in their 50′s and 60′s not 70′s and 80′s. So that the governments lose a decade or two of useful contribution. Emphysema, or more correctly COPD (which apart from heart disease) is the most common serious outcome from smoking and this is like suffocating slowly over 10 years. 5 of which will be spent largely in DEMs, respitaory wards and in nursing care.

    But I can’t help but agree with you that for many people we are prolonging their dying, not making them live longer. Giving someone with moderate alzheimers disease ace inhibitors and statins, when they have already lost significant cognitive functioning is a huge expense which is unlikely to give any great benefit of survival and if it does at what quality of life?

  • Sonagi

    On the one hand, this kind of trick is irritating in the same way that some news sites make you click through twelve pages to read their articles (either to widen their advertisement potential or just through shitty design.)

    Clicking once to read the entire post hardly equates with clicking twelve times to read small chunks of text. I like the use of the Read More link. It saves space on the main page and saves me the trouble of scrolling past long posts I don’t care to read. I give Robert a thumbs up.

  • Pingback: North Korean Economy Watch » Blog Archive » DPRK hosts “no tobacco day”

  • robert neff

    YBT 199 (#6)

    It is as Sonagi said – I do it because I wish to conserve space on the main page so that more posts can be displayed at one time. I generally write long postings and there are many people who do not want to read them. I do it to be considerate. Sorry you found fault with it but….

  • Pingback: The Gender Politics of Smoking in South Korea: Part 1 « The Grand Narrative

  • Pingback: Von Gleichen und Gleicheren: Bricht Kim Jong Il nordkoreanisches Recht? « Nordkorea-Info