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East Asia: Korean Actress Stirs Debate, Outrage By Calling for Marijuana Legalization

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #591)
Politics & Advocacy

A prominent Korean actress has created an uproar in South Korea by advocating for marijuana legalization in a pre-recorded interview on a popular morning program on national TV. Kim Bu-seon had already made a name for herself as a pot legalization crusader in 2004 when, after being sentenced to a suspended jail sentence for possession, she filed a constitutional challenge to the country's marijuana laws.

Kim Bu-seon
In last Friday's interview, Kim protested the recent arrest of actor Oh Gwang-rok for allegedly using marijuana, saying his actions caused no harm and did not impede his ability to do his job. She and Oh were similar, she said. "Have you ever heard any news that I committed a crime after smoking marijuana? I have never done anything harmful, as politicians or thieves have," she said.

Investigations into entertainers who smoke pot were an effort by the government to create a diversion, she said. "Whenever the government has troubles, it uses drug-taking entertainers to divert people's attention. It is the best way to make entertainers and artists obey the government."

Kim also argued that marijuana has medicinal uses. "Marijuana is not a narcotic; it is technically an Oriental herbal medicine which Koreans have used for 5,000 years," Kim said.

"If smoking it doesn't do harm to others, those who do need it, such as those suffering from depression or cancer patients, should be allowed to use it. Marijuana increases appetite and improves sleep," she continued. "Korea has the highest ratio of death by suicide among OECD members. The nation needs to take marijuana as a depression remedy and make depression patients come back to society."

Kim's remarks drew a strong response from TV viewers and Internet commenters, who attacked her views and the MBC public TV network for airing them. One blogger asked, "If marijuana is an Oriental medicine, is methamphetamine a Western medicine? [Editor's Note: The answer is yes, it is a Schedule II controlled substance.] It is not right to justify narcotics even though it is a minority opinion."

Another commenter wrote, "MBC, a public TV station, broadcast that marijuana could be helpful for society. It is obviously quite a low-quality show."

Numerous complainers have demanded that MBC issue an apology for airing the interview, but the program host said that while he disagreed with Kim's views, he would defend her right to articulate them.

People suspected of marijuana use in South Korea can be summarily drug tested by police and face significant jail sentences and/or deportation if they are foreigners. South Korean authorities and much of public opinion considers marijuana to be a hard drug.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


asia guy (not verified)

This is great news. Asia is a human rights disgrace when it comes to cannabis. This woman is in the vanguard and deserves support, she has unleashed cognitive dissidence into a very strict society that values conformity above everything else. This story indicates that South Korea is a ahead of Japan in progressive ideas about drugs.

Fri, 06/26/2009 - 4:12pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

SK should immediately drug test all of their politicians... Go Kim! And in America we have professional athletes who are caught using marijuana and say "it was an isolated incidence and I am truly sorry for my actions"... I bet! I say f*ck you hypocrites. Listen to your agents and be a pathetic cause for nothing except yourself...

Soto you scum bag.

Fri, 06/26/2009 - 7:09pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

is still stuck in 1940s United States with regard to how far along they are with regards to public opinion on cannabis.

Unbelievable that just as many, if not more, people in Asia approve of the death penalty versus legalization. Maybe the Enola Gay bombed them back a few centuries, I don't know.

Sat, 06/27/2009 - 12:30am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In Korean society, traditionally, when someone dies, the family members wear a special ceremonial outfit made specifically from HEMP. This hemp is grown in the southern part of the peninsula in the farmlands.

Come on, you can't say that all these farmers are growing loads of hemp and not taking advantage of the amount of marijuana their crops are also producing? Of course they are, they are selling their hemp to the weavers and they are selling their weed to the gangsters who bring it into the cities, but the government of SK is more apt to criticize NK for doing pretty much the same thing when they can't even look into their own society. That's just Korea for you.

So I talked to some Korean men about this whole issue and they were all like "yeah, marijuana smokers smoke leaves, leaves get you high, they are dangerous leaves." You can't help but feel sorry for their ignorance.

Mon, 07/06/2009 - 9:02am Permalink
Suzie (not verified)

Is she stupid? Since she has used pot herself, doesn't she realize it's a depressant that can cause depressed people to become more depressed just like alcohol. Also smoking it will cause slower reactions in case of an emergency that may occur while driving a car. Korea should not allow it and become a country like the USA who has excessive drug problems. First marijuana, then coke or meth, etc.etc. If South Korea is wise it will keep the law against marijuana law.
Tue, 09/16/2014 - 3:39pm Permalink
Kim (not verified)

In reply to by Suzie (not verified)

You are a complete IDIOT. Marijuana is classified as a hallucinogen NOT a depressant. Not only that, it also treats depression very well (I know.... I've treated my own depression and marijuana works wonders). Tell me, have you actually done any research? Marijuana is a miracle drug, and of course you wouldn't know because you've been brainwashed into thinking that it's a bad drug. Just think for yourself and don't let people tell you how to think; it makes you look like a brainless sheep. 

Sat, 06/03/2017 - 11:03pm Permalink

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