For as health-conscious as Koreans are, they are not too worried about the effects of smoking. Cigarettes are a main staple in the hand of all men. I like to think of them as the male accessory of Korea. Men are ALWAYS walking around with a cigarette in hand, or in mouth.
There are two types of men in this culture (to be VERY stereotypical, forgive me) the laborer and the professional.
This gentlemen is working – part of a construction crew of sorts – with cigarette in mouth. You see guys smoking on the job all of the time, whether propping up trees, fixing sewer or electrical lines, or paving roads.
The other type of smoker is the professional. Sharply dressed and making it look sexy to smoke. (I don’t think they have to advertise for cigarettes. They have living breathing billboards walking around, doing it for free!)
Cell phone in one hand, cigarette in the other - all the while talking business.
When we first got here, Mark and I were surprised that no women were smoking, considering the majority of men do. I learned later, from a Korean friend, that women do smoke (and she said more women smoke than men … incredible if true!) but they have to do it in private. It is socially unacceptable for women to smoke, so they do it at home. The only women I ever see smoking in public are young women that are the ‘rebels’ of the culture (dressed in cute skirts and high heels – not exactly the stereotype in America).
For a very progressive country, there is so much that is still very by the book.