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S. Korean police warn Korean citizens in Canada to stay away from pot or face criminal charges

The South Korean government has warned its citizens that they will face punishment for smoking marijuana even if they do it in countries that allow the drug. (Geoff Robins/AFP/Getty Images)

South Korean citizens living in Canada have received a new warning from police in their home country to stay away from pot or else they could face criminal charges at home.

The warning came earlier this week from Yoon Se-jin, head of the narcotics crime investigation division at Gyeonggi Nambu Provincial Police Agency, who said violators could face up to five years in prison, the Korea Times reported.

“Weed smokers will be punished according to the Korean law, even if they did so in countries where smoking marijuana is legal. There won’t be an exception,” Yoon said, according to the Korea Times.

Last week, Canada became the second country to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Uruguay also allows use of the drug.

What's the story?

About 23,000 South Korean students are living in Canada, according to Ministry of Foreign Affairs data, the Korean Times reported.

South Korean drug laws are strictly enforced and citizens are subject to the nation's laws of their country even when they travel outside its borders.

It's not clear how officials would screen those returning from Canada but some experts believe enforcement would be focused on drug traffickers rather than casual users.

“South Korea can’t screen everyone who visited a foreign country, but the police maintain a blacklist that leads to certain individuals being supervised,” Lee Chang-Hoon, a professor in the department of police administration at Hannam University in Daejeon, said.

“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,” Lee added.

What else?

The densely populated country of more than 50 million had only 12,000 drug arrests in 2015, according to The Guardian.

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