You would think legalization of adult-use cannabis in Canada would permit anyone living or visiting within the country to buy and consume marijuana. But as the South Korean embassy in Canada reminded us on Twitter, South Koreans are subject to the country criminal laws — no matter where they are in the world.
“Even if South Koreans are in a region where marijuana is legal, it will be illegal for them to consume it,” the South Korean Embassy in Canada tweeted. “Please take care not to commit an illegal act and be punished.”
[대마초 합법화에 따른 주의사항 안내] 내일부터 캐나다 전역에서 여가용 대마초 합법화 법안이 발효됩니다. 대마초 합법화 지역이라 할지라도, 우리 국민이 대마초 흡연(구매, 소지, 운반 포함)을 할 경우 범법행위에 해당하여 처벌받게 되니 불이익을 받는 일이 없도록 주의하시기 바랍니다.
— 주캐나다대한민국대사관 (@koremb_canada) October 16, 2018
South Korean law dictates that whatever laws are made in the country’s capital applies to citizens no matter their location in the world. In other words, South Koreans recognize that experimenting with marijuana in Canada could technically result in punishment back home. And South Koreans caught by authorities possessing or using marijuana could face up to five years in prison.
“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,” emphasized Yoon Se-jin, head of the Narcotics Crime Investigation Division at Gyeonggi Nambu Provincial Police Agency, according to the Korea Times.
The country is considered a strict enforcer of all drug laws. Celebrities caught using marijuana are often subjugated to apology tours and made public examples of wrongdoing. Authorities dedicate themselves to projecting a “drug-free nation,” according to The Guardian. In a country of more than 50 million people, only 12,000 drug arrests were made in 2015.
How South Koreans traveling abroad in Canada will be treated remains unclear, including whether they will experience extensive searches upon returning to the country. However, the government appears more concerned with drug traffickers than casual users, and will maintain a blacklist of previously caught drug users.
According to statistics from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, there are around 23,000 South Korean students living in Canada. The New York Times also reports that as of May, there 293,000 South Koreans traveling in Canada.