Korean Internet Cafes Fight Smoking Ban

By Bryan Le 07/25/13

To evade the ban, net cafes are rebranding themselves as "smoking rooms" with "free" PC use.

internet cafe.jpg
Smoking room 1,000 won an hour.
PC use is free.
Photo via

Korean internet cafes, which have been under attack for enabling the country's growing epidemic of gaming addiction, are now facing another hurdle: a nation-wide law banning smoking at all net cafesGaming and smoking go hand-in-hand in South Korean Internet gaming culture, and with many government gaming restrictions already in place, cafe owners say that the new smoking ban could put at least 40% of them out of business. Despite their outcry, the law was passed and the government has given the cafes a six-month extension to ease the transition. But some cafe owners believe they've found a loophole—rebranding their establishments as “smoking rooms” where clientele pay to smoke, and there just happen to be high-end gaming PCs available for (free) use. “Smoking Room, 1000 won per hour. PC use is free.” reads one new sign outside a former net cafe, alongside the specs of the computers they have inside. While there aren't technically any laws forbidding public smoking rooms, the Korean government reportedly plans to crack down on these establishments next.

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Bryan Le grew up in the 90's, so the Internet is practically his third parent. This combined with a love for journalism led him to The Fix. When he isn't fulfilling his duties as Editorial Coordinator, he's obsessing over fancy keyboards he can't justify buying. Find Bryan on LinkedIn or Twitter