• October 16, 2018 South Korean Embassy on Canada warns its pot-using citizens that they may face prison time when they come back home
  • Violators could face up to five years in prison, even if they smoke in a country where it’s legal 
South Koreans may face prison time if they smoke cannabis in Canada, officials say.

Criminal charges could meet South Koreans when they return to their home country if they smoke cannabis while in Canada, Korean police are warning. Violators could face up to five years in prison, as marijuana-related cases are treated as serious offenses.

The South Korea government also put out a warning the day before Canada legalized marijuana.

“Even if South Koreans are in a region where marijuana is legal, it will be illegal for them to consume it. Please take care not to commit an illegal act and be punished.” the South Korean Embassy in Canada said on Twitter.

Korea Times reported that Korean police are planning to hold briefing sessions in Canada and Uruguay (the first country to legalize pot) to explain the risks of smoking marijuana to Koreans.

“It’s possible that a country could make it an offense… as there are issues of sovereignty there,” said Harrison Jordan, a Toronto-based cannabis lawyer.

“There are certainly other countries who have done so … like Saudi Arabia, (which makes) it illegal to have any THC in your system.”

Japan also gave their warning. On Oct. 4, the Consulate-General of Japan in Vancouver issued a statement saying the possession and purchase of cannabis is not only illegal in Japan, but “may be applied … in foreign countries.”

Under South Korea’s narcotics law, selling, buying or consuming marijuana is punishable by a fine of up to 50 million won (around $57,000) or up to five years in jail.

Lee Chang-Hoon, a professor in the department of police administration at Hannam University in Daejeon told the Guardian:

“South Korea can’t screen everyone who visited a foreign country, but the police maintain a blacklist that leads to certain individuals being supervised. But the police are more concerned with the transportation of marijuana into South Korea, and the police messaging shows they are anxious about tackling this issue in the near future.” 

Around 286,000 South Koreans visited Canada in 2017, according to Statistics Canada.

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