South Korea: Marijuana taboo in the “Drug-Free” nation

T.O.P, a member of a K-pop boy group Big Bang, has been lighting up local headlines for… well, lighting up. He is being charged by South Korean prosecutors for smoking marijuana. Many people want him punished for this “indecent” behavior — according to South Korean law, he could face up to five years in prison or pay a 50 million won (44,500 U.S. dollar) fine.

News of T.O.P.’s subsequent hospitalzation after overdosing on prescription tranquilizers didn’t win him much public sympathy. While lying in a state of severe lethargy in an intensive care unit, he was dishonorably discharged from the conscript police force.

But believe it or not, half a century ago this very act of “indecency” would have been as innocuous as smoking a cigarette in South Korea. It was Park Chung-hee, the recently ousted Park Geun-hye’s father and South Korea’s longest-reigning military dictator (1961-1979), who blazed the country’s...

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