February 6, 2024
SEOUL – In the hit Netflix drama series “The Glory,” Lim Ji-yeon, adorned in an elegant magenta blouse, black skirt and gold earrings, leans casually against her white Mercedes-Benz, pulling out a cigarette.
The scene, as successful as the drama itself, quickly went viral, prompting the creation of numerous parody videos.
Nonetheless, the Korean government seems uneasy about such a smoking scene gaining widespread attention. Dramas aired on broadcast television in Korea are prohibited from directly depicting smoking and drinking scenes by local laws, but those streaming on video platforms based overseas, like Netflix and YouTube, are not.
In an attempt to plug this loophole and bring global attention to this matter, Seoul officials plan to call for collective efforts at the upcoming 10th session of the Conference of the Parties to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), scheduled to take place Feb. 5-10 in Panama.
Regulating smoking scenes on streaming platforms has become an increasingly prominent issue in Korea, where the government’s nationwide anti-smoking campaign, encompassing media regulations, taxation and education, has yielded significant results.
According to a report released by the Korea Health Promotion Institute in August last year, which monitored 14 of the most popular dramas across seven domestic and international streaming platforms, the findings indicated that 87.5 percent of these dramas — 12 out of 14 — featured tobacco products or smoking scenes.
Since streaming platforms fall under the jurisdiction of the Act on Promotion of Information and Communications Network Utilization and Information Protection here, and not broadcasting laws, shows aired on them do not the face same restrictions on smoking scenes.
During the FCTC session, the Korean government will also present the successful outcomes of its efforts to reduce the adult smoking rate here.
According to the Health Ministry, the adult smoking rate in Korea, which was 35.1 percent in 1998, had dropped to 17.7 percent by 2022.
Measures taken include expanding non-smoking areas around daycare centers, kindergartens and elementary, middle and high schools; implementing media guidelines; and enacting laws related to disclosing harmful elements of tobacco products.
“We will share our tobacco regulation achievements with the international community,” Jeong Yeon-hee, an official from the ministry, said in a statement. “We will also carefully consider the FCTC agenda to further strengthen domestic smoking cessation policies.”
The FCTC was established in 2005 as the first international treaty in the health sector with the aim of reducing global tobacco consumption and smoking rates.
As of 2023, 183 countries are participating parties in the convention. The parties hold a regular international conference every two years, and this year’s session is taking place in person after a five-year hiatus.