As the largest country to legalize marijuana, Canada is attracting the attention of South Korean travelers. However, the South Korean government has warned its citizens that they may still face punishment upon returning home even if they smoked in a country where cannabis consumption is legal.
The South Korean Embassy in Canada has already warned its citizens of trying cannabis when they visit the country.
“Even if South Koreans are in a region where marijuana is legal, it will be illegal for them to consume it,” the embassy wrote on Twitter, according to The Star. “Please take care not to commit an illegal act and be punished.”
Under South Korea’s narcotics law, those who will be caught growing, possessing, transporting or consuming marijuana may face a punishment of up to five years of jail time or may get slapped with a 50 million South Korean won ($44,223) fine. This law applies to all citizens even if they are visiting a foreign country.
“Weed smokers will be punished according to the Korean law, even if they did so in countries where smoking marijuana is legal. There won’t be an exception,” head of the narcotics crime investigation division at Gyeonggi Nambu, Yoon Se-jin, said in a statement, Korea Times reported.
It is still unclear how officials will test each and every citizens coming back from Canada, but experts weighed in and believed that authorities will give more focus on traffickers of drugs rather than those who use marijuana casually according to Lee Chang-Hoon, a professor in the department of police administration at Hannam University in Daejeon, The Guardian reported.
“South Korea can’t screen everyone who visited a foreign country, but the police maintain a blacklist that leads to certain individuals being supervised,” Lee said. “But the police are more concerned with the transportation of marijuana into South Korea, and the police messaging shows they are anxious about tackling this issue in the near future.”
However, judges in the country will assess the incidents individually, adding, “especially when marijuana is prescribed of medical reasons,” Lee continued.
According to government data, there are about 23,000 South Korean students in Canada while around 293,000 citizens are traveling there as of May.