Protest Against New Smoking Ban in Korean Internet Cafes

The thick cloud of cigarette smoke that is a hallmark of South Korean internet cafes may soon be history, as the government begins enforcing a strict ban on smoking indoors. Cafe users and owners have protested against the law, even demonstrating in the street in front of the National Assembly. Critics of the new law say that smoking is half of the reason why people visit internet cafes and prohibition would ruin the industry.

The law in question, known as the National Health Promotion Act, was originally passed in 2011 and has since incrementally increased the areas where it is illegal to smoke. Starting with public spaces, such as Seoul City Hall and bus stops, the law expanded to prohibit smoking in public offices and restaurants.

Official government notice of the complete smoking ban inside PCbang

Official government notice of the complete smoking ban inside PCbang

Article from inews:

Sharp Controversy over Smoking Ban in PCbang

(From Reporter Huh Jun) Since June 8th, smoking has been prohibited in internet cafes. According to the enforcement of the National Health Promotion Act by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the internet cafes, known as “PCbang“, have been designated as non-smoking areas.

Up until now, PCbangs have operated separate, but adjacent smoking and nonsmoking areas, however, now the whole room will not be allowed to smoke. Those who wish to smoke must visit an exterior designated smoking area.

If someone smokes in the nonsmoking area, they will receive penalties of up to one hundred-thousand won (approximately $88), and the owner of the PCbang will be fined up to five million won (about $4,422).

The Ministry of Health and Welfare will give a grace period until the last day of December, which allows the owners of PCbangs to gradually establish a separate smoking area in PCbang.

No visible change in smoking in PCbang.

On June 10th, though two days have passed since the enforcement of the law, it was not hard to find many smokers playing games in PCbang.

At the entrance of a PC bang located at Seongdong-gu in Seoul, a sign pointing out “Smoking banned even in PCbang” hangs on the wall, but most PC bang users still enjoyed playing games while smoking.

Another PCbang in Mapo-gu still provides users with an ashtray; the only difference now is that it is a paper cup instead of a metal ashtray. It seems like there has been no difference before and after the law was enforced.

An owner of PCbang said, “As most users who come to PCbang are smokers, the PCbang may shut down if they are not allowed to smoke. Therefore, I will run the PC bang in the same way as the past, just seeing how things are going.”

A PC bang divided into smoking and nonsmoking sections

A PC bang divided into smoking and nonsmoking sections

Sharp controversy over the benefits of the ban among PCbang users.

There has been controversy over the smoking ban law among PCbang users. Some claim that PCbang should be fresh and clean, free from the smell of cigarettes, while others thought that the rapid enforcement of the law has not considered the needs of many smokers and owners of PCbang.

The users against smoking in PCbang claim that the division between smoking and nonsmoking areas has actually been useless because the smoke from smoking areas was spreading into nonsmoking areas. These users say that they will come to PCbang more often if PC bangs become totally nonsmoking.

However, smokers have the opposite stance. They said the reason they came to PCbang was to play the games while smoking, but now there is no reason to go to PCbang any more.

Comments from inews:


PCbang’ owners may suffer men-boong , ke ke ke


I am a non-smoker. Despite the smell of cigarettes, I have often gone to PCbang. I felt annoyed when I suffered from second-hand smoke. Please don’t smoke at least in the nonsmoking area.


There are lots of nonsmoking seats, why do the fucking teenagers have to come to the smoking area to play games?

leo0**** :

I have never seen any law pointing out the separation between smoking and nonsmoking seats. The government just passes a law and that is the end of it? How they ever stepped in before? I don’t get it why they suddenly force people to abide by the rule.. Are you kidding me? I think the government is just trying to put PCbangs out of business. Over 70 percent of PCbang in Taiwan were shut down after the passage of a smoking prevention law. The majority (about 70%) of customers in PCbang are smokers. And owners of PCbang depend largely on them for income. That’s why I say it is an empty policy. Many stupid lawmakers have no understanding of it.


It sucks. What a nice present for smokers, expanding the smoking ban area as well as raising the cigarette price! Smokers may only be welcome in their own home. Then, why don’t they raise the alcohol price? In many criminal cases, it has been proven that irresistible urges arising from alcohol was the main reason for crime. After surviving all this bullying from the government, I bet smokers will never die.

viva**** :

Seriously, it’s a crisis.

ogoo**** :

I think after PCbang become nonsmoking areas, men can still smoke in a designated smoking room, but ladies won’t. I bet girls would like separate smoking rooms from that of men because they pretend to be innocent and proper. And then PCbang may start to make the separate room for women. Damn it.. Finally, the price of using PCbang must be raised again.

Keidi Choi:

After all PCbang go out of business, there will be no debate, no argument any more. Let’s just do Gametalk instead of going to PCbang. It leads to intensifying youth unemployment. And then old parents will still have to support their sons who have already grown up, now they will just head to the bars instead.

•김성민: Please sign this. This was written for our nation, not for smokers. If non-smokers fill in the remained seats after smokers leave PCbang, it may still have a negative impact on PCbang. Finally, it will be bad for our IT industries. It is economic nonsense. Please be wise economically.

protest pcbang smoking

Scenes from an April 12, 2013 Seoul street protest by PCbang owners against the new law

Scenes from an April 12, 2013 Seoul street protest by PCbang owners against the new law


I suggest that nonsmokers can occupy PCbang from 7am to 10pm, but the rest of the time for smokers. It’s fair.

• korea74tige:

If smokers quit for just six months, would they be making such a fuss over this…Many customers are already exposed to smoking in PCbang whether they light a cigarette or not. Much worse, in order to save the cost of electricity, PCbang owners are not operating a ventilator. Come on.. Please don’t be against the policy as if PCbang customers are your children.

duda**** :

Hey, lady who has a teenage son! Do you really think your son is not a smoker? Don’t blame it on PCbang second-hand smoke!

[Note: will never outlaw smoking on our site, our users should feel free to smoke if they so choose]

Share This Article
Help us maintain a vibrant and dynamic discussion section that is accessible and enjoyable to the majority of our readers. Please review our Comment Policy »
  • JeliesS

    Think of it as a chance to kick the nasty habit. Smoking in public areas is beyond rude.

    • Joey

      You don’t understand PC-bang culture.

      • jon776

        Well, now that filthy and unhealthy culture has to die.

    • tonkotsu

      If they choose to smoke, they should be able to smoke.

  • Ruaraidh

    “irresistible urges arising from alcohol was the main reason for crime”

    Ha, alcohol doesn’t make you into a fully separate person, it just lowers inhibitions. I’ll admit I’ve done some pretty stupid things after drinking, but I’m a pretty stupid person, and even I wouldn’t try to pass the buck onto a chemical I chose to imbibe.

    • maja

      He may be talking about withdrawal, I’ve seen it happen.

      • Ruaraidh

        You’ve seen alcohol withdrawal being the main reason for crime?

        • maja

          no, I’ve seen alcohol withdrawal and I understand how it’s possible to think it can lead to aggressive behaviour. especially if you combine it with a very tense domestic situation.

          anyways I suspect that switching “main reason” with “most frequent common ground for domestic violence” would make it more agreeable/acceptable. I don’t speak Korean, nor I can discuss with the poster so.. all I can say is: alcohol withdrawal can be severe, because it seemed that was what he/she was talking about.

          what I saw in Eastern Asia while less immediately noticeable to me was much more severe then what I could see before coming here. you could say it’s a problem with management of whithdrawal after you reach a physical need kind of addiction. well, I’ve seen other kinds of addiction in the west but since those are not usually tolerated ina domestic environment, people tends to be more careful.

          with the amounts and frequency of alcohol consumption I see in China (and what I hear and see Korean people gulp down) I wouldn’t be surprised if someone could be worried about alcohol addiction.

          no, I haven’t. but…

    • A Gawd Dang Mongolian

      Alcohol, the cure to diseases like ‘reason’, ‘articulation’, and ‘sound judgement’.

      Still saying that you have urges is a stretch. People always have urges, the drinky just removes that voice in your head that tells you how stupid that urge is.

  • k.ftw

    I’m a smoker but I wouldn’t stay a single second in a room for smokers. I’d rather wait for a break and go outside.

  • Is this supposed to discourage Koreans from smoking? Thats like discouraging cats from napping.

  • Brett

    From all the PC Bangs I have ever been to, the smoking section is almost always at least double the size of the non smoking section.

    Girls go there in the afternoon/evening so they can smoke some cigarettes without worrying if someone they know will see them.

    It’s like smoking and computer usage are one in the same organism. You can’t have one without the other in Korea.

    • jon776

      You can now!

      • Brett

        Nothing has changed besides ashtrays for paper cups. Same story in every PC bang.

  • Your Sexy Cousin Rex

    fuck dude whats next? cup noodle ban in pc bangs?

  • Yu Bum Suk

    Good luck enforcing this.

    • lonetrey / Dan

      NYC does a good job with its smoking ban, why couldn’t South Korea?

      I realize that my experience with this is limited to a single city that I happen to live near, but still makes a good model for South Koreans to follow…

      • Yu Bum Suk

        In NYC I imagine a cop isn’t too hesitant to tell someone his dad’s age that he should respect the laws.

        I suppose the next step will be a ban on smoking in rooms salons?

        • lonetrey / Dan

          What’s wrong with telling your elders to respect the laws? >_>

          Not like a policeman could make an exception just because a guy’s old… especially if the older gentleman is adding smoke to his passerby’s daily diet.

          • Yu Bum Suk

            “What’s wrong with telling your elders to respect the laws?”

            It’s just plain unKorean. Unless possibly the elder is a a foreigner and thereby not really *your* elder.

  • jon776

    Good! I wish smoking was banned everywhere.

  • commander

    With almost widespread use of smarphones already denting PC salons, the envisioned anti-smoking drive will be eat away at profit foundations of the PC salson industry.

    Given that a overwhelming majority of visitors to PC salsons are smokers, tge tougher smoking ban will be disincetive to use of PC salon patrons.

    Thus, the question to be followed is that can smoking free salons make up for predicted lossess from less visits by smoking users with new customers?

    The primary reason by people visit PC salons is do onling games with up to date computers in airconditioned cool atmosphere.

    The banned smoking will defintely mean the loss of one of attractivesness for PC salon visitors.

    The comprehensive anti smoking campaign is understandable as the smoking habit, once taken, is notoriously hard to kick out.

    But those who already took the cigarette as their stress reliever and have no willingness to quit smoking see the latest move as nothing more than too invasive upon their privacy.

    • Paul M

      By calling them PC salons you almost make them sound like a nice place to visit, heh heh.

      • tonkotsu

        they really are if you just wanna go hang out n play games. When I used to frequent pcbangs, the fact that I could smoke was great! There were also smoking and non smoking areas in many of the larger ones.

        now without smoking, they’ll basically all close overnight. Sad tbh

  • lonetrey / Dan

    To be honest, I feel like my opinion will be horribly biased because I don’t really smoke cigarettes.

    I think this smoking ban is quite reasonable because they’re basically suffocating themselves to death in a enclosed room. Smoking by default is unhealthy, and second-hand smoke usually forced non-smokers to partake in someone else’s choice without consent. If someone wants to drink alcohol, they do it and they don’t make people drink with them (peer pressure not included).

    It’s reasonable to have people smoke outdoors, isn’t it?

    • maja

      The protesters make it sound like those internet cafes are for smokers something like a street cocktail bar is for drinkers, but I kind of agree with you even if I’m a smoker. I just wonder if there are public places where it’s socially acceptable to smoke in Korea, or better, are there even open-air public spaces where you can just relax in the evening (and proceed with your chain-smocking ritual)?
      And on a side note, could this really have an impact on Korean Starcraft Team performance?

    • tonkotsu

      Your reply is incredibly biased because you have not experienced both sides.

      I smoked in the past, and especially in pcbangs, because you’re just playing games and its nice to smoke while gaming. Having to stop your game to walk outside to smoke will kill any enjoyment people have in pcbangs.

      Usually, the larger pcbangs will have separate rooms for smokers anyways (and the smoking rooms are bigger.. because there are a lot of smokers.. probably more than non smokers), so its a non issue unless the non smokers are purposely going into the smoker sections then complaining.

      by removing the right that people had by limiting smoking to a small outside area, all they’re really doing is ostracizing smokers and reducing business for pcbangs.

      As for it being an enclosed room.. they all have some sort of ventilation.

      • OpparDoesntLoveYou

        Second-hand smoke is dangerous just as smoking directly is. Imagine people who go to PC bangs who are children, or have asthma, or some kinds of lung problem. Smokers can kill people around them just like they kill themselves. Don’t be rude and harmful to others just because of your own dangerous habits. Step outside. It’s easy. And if it bothers you so much just quit smoking. .

        • tonkotsu

          no one forces the non smokers to go to the smoking section of the pc bangs

        • jushin100

          In about 20-30 years most governments around the world will admit that ETS or 2nd hand smoke is not a risk and that they wasted all of this money making and enforcing smoking bans.

          This link shows the 110 studies up to 1998.

          After 1998 we have Enstrom and Kabat:
          Focusing on 35,561 never-smoking Californians married to smokers, who were followed by the Cancer Society for 39 years (1959 to 1998), the tabular results not only–and absolutely — showed no lung cancer risk whatsoever but actually showed a slightly lower risk than expected among the general never-smoker population.
          These results held for both men (0.75 @ 95% confidence) and women (0.99 @ 95%), held both before and after the results were mathematically adjusted for seven relevant confounders, and further, showed no dose response trend (the risks did not grow with the amount of exposure.)
          -”Environmental Tobacco Smoke And Tobacco-Related Mortality In A Prospective Study Of Californians, 1960-98,” Enstrom & Kabat, British Medical Journal 5/17/03

          The reason this has gone so far is because we know smoking is bad for us so we automatically think that 2nd hand smoke must be bad for us. People blindly think “it must be dangerous” without any logical reasoning. And of course, non-smokers just don’t like the smell.

          In March 1998 the World Health Organisation ( by Boffetta – the last study in the link above) was forced to admit that the results of a seven-year study (the largest of its kind) into the link between passive smoking and lung cancer were not “statistically significant”. This is because the risk of a non-smoker getting lung cancer had been estimated at 0.01%. According to WHO, non-smokers are subjecting themselves to an increased risk of 16-17% if they consistently breathe other people’s tobacco smoke. This may sound alarming, but an increase of 16-17% on 0.01 is so small that, in most people’s eyes, it is no risk at all. This is a risk increase of 0.0016% which is not statistically significant as it could be caused by other factors such as sample size etc.. It was also not widely publicized that this report found that non-smokers who who had a parent that smoked had a decreased risk of lung cancer.

          In the UK:-

          On Desert Island Discs (a radio program) in 2001, Sir Richard Doll, the man who proved the incontrovertible causal link between active smoking and lung cancer, said: “The effect of other people smoking in my presence is so small it doesn’t worry me.”

          In April 2002, following an exhaustive six-month investigation during which written and oral evidence was supplied by organisations including ASH, Cancer Research UK and Forest, the Greater London Assembly Investigative Committee on Smoking in Public Places declined to recommend ANY further restrictions on smoking in public places, stating very clearly that it is not easy to prove a link between passive smoking and lung cancer. As joint author of the report, Angie Bray put on record her opposition to a total ban on smoking in public places in a letter to the Daily Telegraph (5 July 2003). According to Bray: “The assembly spent six months investigating whether a smoking ban should be imposed in public places in London. After taking evidence from all sides, including health experts, it was decided that the evidence gathered did not justify a total smoking ban.”

          In July 2006 the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee published a report on the management of risk. One of the subjects they looked at was passive smoking. The committee, whose members included former Chancellor Lord Lawson, concluded that, “Passive smoking is an example in which [government] policy demonstrates a disproportionate response to a relatively minor health problem, with insufficient regard to statistical evidence.”

        • jushin100

          It always makes me laugh when I’m standing in a bus queue, waiting for a bus, smoking a cigarette and the girl in front of me is making a fake cough and waving her hand in front of her face. I’m laughing because she is standing next to a road with every car and bus spraying out large amounts of harmful gases… but she doesn’t care/know about these gases because she can’t see the gases coming out of the cars.
          If you connect a pipe to your car exhaust and pass it round to a gap in your car window and then start the car you will be DEAD in one hour! It’s a common method of suicide in Europe.

    • commnader

      If a person risk smoking-induced diseases with all knowledge of pernicious effectd from smokinh but do no harm to other persons via second or passisve smoking, and insist on freedom of happiness from smoking, how can a state prohibit him or her from smoking unless smoking itself is outlawed nationwide by legislation?

      • lonetrey / Dan

        Yeah, that’s why I don’t have anything against the act of smoking itself, but I argue against indoor smoking on the basis that a smoker can rarely control his/her smoke from the cigarette, which can become an issue in an enclosed space.

        If everyone in PC Bang happens to be smokers AND agrees to take on everyone else’s smoke, simultaneously lighting up and inhaling other people’s smoke, then sure go for it.

        I don’t think that’s normally the case though, is it?

        Because then you might have:
        “Smokers + non-smokers”
        “Smokers + smokers who don’t want extra 2nd-hand smoke”
        “Smokers + non-smokers’ area that doesn’t have good separation from smoking area”
        And the list goes on and on.

  • Pingback: Monday’s Link Attack: Koreas Want to Talk; ‘Monstar’ Is a Hit; Racist Road Rage « KoreAm Journal – Korean America's Premier Magazine()

  • Pingback: Monday’s Link Attack: Koreas Want to Talk; ‘Monstar’ TV Show Is a Hit; Racist Road Rage « KoreAm Journal – Korean America's Premier Magazine()

  • PixelPulse

    I thought everybody in Korea had a computer at home..

    • Sillian

      People drink coffee at cafes although they can drink it at home. In PC bangs you can play games with friends sitting side by side munching on snacks.

      • PixelPulse

        Seems expensive to go out to play games with friends when you can do it at home…

        • Janelle

          But it’s only like $1 per hour to play. People go cuz it’s cheap and convenient. No need to set up a network or even buy the game (i.e. Starcraft, Warcraft, etc). Walk in, play with your friends for an hour or so, and head out. Or in my case occasionally, friends play and I nod off for a bit (we usually go pretty late at night on the weekends the rare times we go).

        • com-chan

          The prices for entertainment there is so much better than what we have here. If you ever watch any Eatyourkimchi videos, you’ll know how much easier it is to be social there.

  • dk2020

    Koreans need to get up on E- Cigs / Vapes ..

  • elizabeth

    Considering that smoking is bad for health and second-hand smoke affects the health of non-smokers, it is a reasonable policy that benefits everyone.

  • Pingback: Ulsan Culture and Living » News Update 06/29/2013()

  • Dave Park

    Sometimes, it’s best to just take a break from the current environment and go OUTSIDE to smoke a cigarette.

  • Smith_90125

    If the filthy buttheads don’t like it, they should stop smoking.

    When I was in Korea, I would ONLY go to PC bangs that had non-smoking areas, and if a butthead tried to light up in the non-smoking area, I would bump his chair and point to the sign.

Personals @ chinaSMACK - Meet people, make friends, find lovers? Don't be so serious!»