The Land of the Morning Stench

The old Japanese backed dynasty rulers went by the name of this university: ‘Chosun’. This word originally meant something like ‘The Land of the Morning Calm.’ It is a very sweetly poetic phrase, but, these days, it is not accurate. In these days of post-modernity and corporate-captured capitalist culture, the only reason the morning is calm is because of the soju-soaked daze and cigarette-induced haze settled over and throughout everything. The stench on the dawn-drawn streets is a glorious assault on the senses for any fool-hardy early riser or real late-night reveler.

Not that I’m often up and around at that time, however, partly for the sake of those who are, and for the potential that I may soon well be, I am fairly delighted to read a bit of genuinely positive news in the Korea Herald today:

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“Seoul City saw a rapid decrease in the number of fined cigarette droppers last year after starting a no-litter campaign in 2007, officials said Monday.

The city collected about 6.2 billion won ($5.7 million) in fines from 176,069 litterbugs in 2010, according to the Seoul Metropolitan Government.

The figure was the smallest since 2007 when the city launched a campaign against flicking cigarette butts on the streets in all of its 25 districts.

Compared to 2009, the number of litterbugs declined 34.4 percent while the amount of fines was almost cut in half.

Gangnam-gu was the first district to impose fines on cigarette droppers in January 2007. Other district offices followed suit in the coming months. Fines vary by the district in the capital, ranging from 25,000 to 50,000 won.

In 2010, Gangnam-gu imposed the largest number of fines among Seoul districts, with 14,068 cases taking up almost half the total litterbugs. It was followed by Jongno-gu with 2,148, Songpa-gu with 2,102 and Jung-gu with 1,566.

Those throwing cigarettes from car windows also declined from 7,116 in 2009 to 6,089 last year, the city said.

In a bid to ensure clean streets, the city plans to add ashtrays alongside waste bins on the streets.

From this month, the city started to impose a fine of 100,000 won on those caught smoking in three downtown squares ― Seoul, Cheonggye Stream and Gwanghwamun.”

By Lee Ji-yoon (

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It is a good thing to see Seoul City office being so pr0-active in dissuading smokers from the belief that they have ‘the right’ to poison anyone else with their second-hand smoke. It is also great to see Seoul city dissabuse their people of any sense of entitlement to litter by dropping the used remains of a cagarette anywhere they please.

It is with fair sadness, then, that I share this picture.

This photo was taken through the window next to which I walk to work every morning throughout the week.  The whole area has been cleaned out perhaps twice or three times now, and yet returns to a similarly disgusting state within days.

I really hope students will get the message that they are NOT entitled to drop cigarette butts anywhere they want. I hope they hear this message coming from Chosun University. Perhaps the university could instigate a fine system, although I do not know who would get the happy job of enforcing such a new policy.

In fairness to the university, I have seen some public service-type announcements on some of the many television sets around the campus. On the other hand, there are notices in all the bathrooms I’ve been into, and yet at the same time those notes and notices are completely useless as they are ineffective at stopping smokers selfish enough to ‘light up’ in the shared toilet rooms.

In terms of the culture local to the city, my favourite bicycle mechanic told me recently that his girlfriend broke up with him not long before. She did not want to go out with a smoker and he could not give up. He has still not given up smoking yet, however, his story – sad for him – could perhaps be read as a happy indication that changes are happening on the personal front, and within the national scene.

Come on Coreans, let’s *REALLY* GET INTO being both environmenally friendly, and also aware of the real ‘well-being’ trend. ‘Cancer sticks’ are not healthy for the smoker, and they are not healthy for anyone else around, and especially inside, or in enclosed areas where the ‘second-hand smoke’ is not expelled from the local environment.

Surely, however, the easiest bad habit to drop, even before all those other considerations are given time, is the habit so many smokers seem to be in, of thinking they have ‘the right’ to drop their butts anywhere they like. It is very easy to find trash cans around this otherwise neat and beautiful city, and ‘our country’ called Corea!

A beautiful doorway, enhanced by colourful brickwork and trees, has all efforts at beautification spoiled by the laziness of a few selfish smokers who could not even be bothered to look for the trash can (or rubbish bin) on the other side of the doorway, nor even use the jar placed out specifically for them.

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