So I just want to fire off a short rant:
OK. I know that because of the high turnover rate of English teachers, maybe it has to be repeated, over and over.
According to the article, "Said grower also said that in America smoking pot isn't considered to be a big problem." And this is something I've heard before, in other places, as if this is why they expect the police to follow Alaskan marijuana law instead of Korean law, when dealing with a foreigner arrested for possession in Korea.
OK, dear readers, here's the thing. First of all, we foreigners have all had the discussion where we've said that in general, Koreans don't have much concept of there being a spectrum of drug severity -- that is, marijuana is not that dangerous a drug, while things like heroin or meth are the real life-wreckers that Korea should be fighting against, and lending headline space. I'm from the Vancouver area, so I might have had "the marijuana talk" more often than others, thanks to discussing it with the hometown pals, even though I've never been a user myself. Going to a Christian university meant that it was available if I went looking for it, but I couldn't really be bothered to.
We can all agree that there isn't a lot of nuance in the idea that all illegal drugs are equal, in the same way that there isn't a lot of nuance in the idea that all mental illnesses are tantamount to being f*#^ing crazy - that all-or-nothing thing has been extensively discussed in different places.
And my dear readers, I'm sure all of you are fine, upstanding citizens who'd never think about using drugs while you're teaching English, or living in Korea... But maybe, some people will drift across this post while googling for information about drug use in Korea, so it's time for me to say it.
It doesn't matter if we think Korean thinking about different kinds of drugs is un-nuanced... because we're not the ones who write Korean law! It's not our job to introduce the Koreans we meet to the argument that alcohol is a more dangerous drug than marijuana... even though some say it is. And frankly, given the amount of stigma against drug use, and the way that illegal drugs have been presented to Koreans by the Korean media, we're butting our heads against a wall if we take it upon ourselves to enlighten every Korean we meet with that little pearl.
Rather than open Koreans' minds to a whole new world of grey areas and "soft drugs," what having that conversation most often does, is serve to reinforce the stereotype of "Morally unqualified, drug-addled English teacher, who in his/her arrogance, thinks they should change Korea to be exactly like their own country" that we've been trying to live down for half a decade or more.
So here's what papa Roboseyo suggests, as per "the drugs discussion" in Korea. I would be happy if these ideas circulated widely, and that every first year English teacher, during their first month, were emphatically advised by a colleague that:
1. At this point, between the risks and penalties and the way Koreans think about drug use, combined with the way drug use is so often associated with English teachers, it just isn't worth it to use drugs while you're in Korea. Don't do it, don't look for it, just stay out of that mess. I've actually met people who came to Korea to successfully clean up, and get off the ganj, and they succeeded. Korea's good for that. Korea's NOT a good place to get high, unless your drug of choice is either alcohol, or really spicy food. Pot IS a big problem here, and if you resent that pot's legally or practically decriminalized in parts of North America and in the Netherlands, but it's still very illegal here, then go back to Portland, Denver, Amsterdam, or Vancouver Island.
2. Rather than try to add ambiguity and nuance to the discussion, when Koreans who don't know you very well, and whom you don't know very well, bring up the topic of drug use, stick with "I respect Korean laws, so I don't do drugs while I'm in Korea." If they pursue it, "Whatever I did back home, in a different culture, doesn't matter much to my life in Korea, because while I'm in Korea, I respect the local laws." If they still pursue it, gently change the topic.
3. Add "nuanced discussion of the relative severity of different illegal drugs" and "alcohol is the drug that should really be illegal, and Korean workaholics would benefit more from smoking marijuana after working their 12 hour shifts, than they do from getting shit-faced" to the list of topics to be brought up delicately and probably infrequently, and only with Korean friends who know you quite well, and whom you know well enough to read whether they're growing uncomfortable with the conversation, along with "complaining about Korea" "ugly nationalism" "views deviating from the Korean norm regarding Dokdo, the Japanese colonial era, war crimes, apologies, and comfort women," "Korea's sex industry" "corruption" "Korea's not actually sexually conservative" "racism in Korea" and "open discussion about sex."
Can we all agree to follow those principles, and ask our new co-teachers to get on board? Pretty please?