South Korea warns citizens they will be punished if they smoke marijuana in Canada

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Jubilant customers were spotted standing in long lines for hours in Canada last week after the country legalized recreational marijuana use, but South Korean citizens were warned they will be penalized if they take part.

The South Korean Embassy in Canada tweeted last Tuesday, “The law for the legalization of cannabis use for leisure will be in effect throughout Canada starting tomorrow. Even in the legalized area of cannabis, please note that if the citizens of Korea smoke [including purchase, possession and transportation], they will be penalized for the offense.”

On Oct. 17, Canada became the second country in the world, after Uruguay, to legalize recreational marijuana nationwide.


However, South Koreans are “subject to their country’s criminal code” even if they are out of the nation, The New York Times reported. Those who partake in recreational marijuana use could face up to five years in prison or a fine up to $44,000.

“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,” said Yoon Se-jin, the head of Gyeonggi Nambu’s provincial police department’s narcotics division, according to the Korea Times.

The Times reported citizens were randomly drug tested in South Korea, but they are closely watched through their internet activities including bragging about marijuana use on the web. The Guardian reported South Korea often displays celebrities who are caught with marijuana to the media.


Some 23,000 South Korean students were studying abroad in Canada, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Meanwhile, U.S. officials have warned travelers going to Canada that it is illegal to bring marijuana in the U.S. despite the legalization in Canada.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.