Korean Celebrities Caught Smoking: Should They Be Cancelled and Shamed?

korean celebrities smoking
Credit: Spring Agency

In Korean entertainment, idols are expected to be angelic wholesome children of the Lord incapable of any, if all, mistakes and actors almost follow suit. Unfortunately, realizing Korean celebrities are human is a hard pill to swallow for some. Now, Ji Chang Wook caught smoking on the set of Welcome To Samdalri stirs up this hot topic again – should celebrities be shamed for smoking? As Korean fans boil over from the situation, international fans are left scratching their heads wondering if it is really a big deal.

As of February 10th, Ji Chang Wook faced criticism for cutscenes revealing he smoked indoors while rehearsing in a room with actors Shin Hye Sun, Lee Jae Won, Bae Myung Jin, and more of the cast and crew.

Fans questioned if Ji Chang Wook abused his power because he was the lead character and a senior actor.

Credit: JTBC

Upon hearing viewers’ outcries, Ji Chang Wook’s agency, Spring Company, released an official apology. “We apologize. Ji Chang Wook acknowledges his inappropriate behavior and is sorry for disappointing many. We once again deeply apologize to those who encountered the content, to the staff on-site, to the fellow cast members, and to the viewers who love our work and drama.” See the full apology and scandal in the story below.

>> Ji Chang Wook Under Fire For Smoking On Set + Fans Demand Legal Punishment After His Apology

The problem that may be regarded as meaningless by international fans is the fact that Ji Chang Wook didn’t abide by the law – not just because he smoked. “Koreans smoke all the time” or “He just got caught, that’s all” are common comments and I agree. I see Koreans smoking on set and even in elevators. However, it doesn’t mean it should be excused – all of these people are in the wrong if they smoke in a prohibited space.

Looking at the past, various idols such as NCT’s Jungwoo, EXO D.O and more have been caught smoking and slammed for their actions. However, unlike Ji Chang Wook, they have a reputation geared to the youth that they must uphold. Other than performing and singing on stage with a blunder in the choreography here or there, idols are expected to be mistake-free – performing perfectly and then boxed into their dorms until their next public performance or TV appearance. In a perfect world, idols could have liberties to do the things they want, even if those things could lead to dire consequences, because they are human, too. Yet, idols take on the obligation to be role models and actors often face the same responsibilities, too. Actors are assets and role models who should be wary of the public eye. Another question to consider is if Korean celebrities are allowed to make mistakes if they uphold public images influencing the generation more than a politician? After all, they are idols, right?

Credit: Hello Entertainment / Dispatch

Three years ago famed trot singer Lim Young Woong was seen smoking on the set of PPONG SCHOOL indoors and wasn’t even wearing a mask at the time, violating Korea’s then strict COVID-19 rules. “Many staff don’t smoke and it could damage expensive equipment, ” one producer complained. Yet, Lim Young Woong released an apology through his agency, and the escalated situation was soon forgotten- unclear if fees were paid or not. Ji Chang Wook was reported to have smoked numerous times on set since it is partially Korean culture to have a smoke break and countless producers, staff, and cast smoke between filming scenes as the regular salary man does between emails and meetings. Again, the issue shouldn’t be that celebrities smoke but that they were inconsiderate to staff or smoking where they shouldn’t be. If normal people would face fans, why wouldn’t celebrities?

Credit: Dispatch

In order to address fans who are abusing power themselves, we must look back four years ago, when the hot topic plaguing the internet was when NCT’s Jungwoo was caught smoking in an alleyway and the pictures circulated across the web like wildfire despite fans doing their best to keep it under wraps. There was an awfully big battle among fans wondering if what Jungwoo did was a big deal or not – with most Korean fans awaiting repercussions for Jungwoo’s actions at that time.

Dig a little deeper, and NCT Lucas was caught on live stream numerous times with cigarette packs in his pocket and, in the past, idols such as EXO’s Kai, D.O, Sehun, SHINee’s Taemin and Onew, f(x) Amber (such a pattern with SM, huh?), BIGBANG’s G-Dragon and T.O.P, PSY, 2NE1’s CL, B.A.P’s Daehyun, Highlight’s Lee Gi Kwang, JYJ’s Park Yoo Chun, and so on, drew attention for their smoking scandals. Still, if their agencies make statements about the issue and call it a day, why is Ji Chang Wook suddenly facing such harsh scrutiny? It is already quite the growing list, with many more idols and actors we surely do not know are smoking. Perhaps it’s time to make an example of somehow in order to change this bad habit within the industry? Is Ji Chang Wook the sacrificial lamb?

Credit: JTBC

What can be done if idols and actors are caught smoking in prohibited spaces? It is illegal and idols and actors shouldn’t be excused from the law – even if directors and staff themselves are seen smoking on set. All involved should be reprimanded. It may be a bad case of pointing fingers if we really tried to pursue fair legal action but Ji Chang Wook is a household name and would be made into an example in this scenario. But this isn’t an argument to point out who is right or wrong but to shine light upon some underlying issues being ignored in this situation and the even worse repercussions of harming Korean celebrities.

One problem is that international fans arguably compare Western and Korean cultures. For example, Doja Cat was spotted smoking an e-cigarette while receiving a reward. Some artists even smoke during Instagram lives. However, not only are Koreans conscious of image compared to Western artists but also what Ji Chang Wook did was considered inconsiderate to the health of staff and is blatant ignorance of the law. Many people believed smoking indoors is common with e-cigarettes as of late but these are done by people who simply, like Ji Chang Wook, freely smoke without observing the law. Even if he asked permission to smoke in front of the cast and crew, smoking indoors or on a set is a crime. With cameras rolling, Ji Chang Wook could have benefitted from being wiser and waiting to smoke after the rehearsal.

Another issue is the fact that the words “cancel” or “no longer supporting” are being thrown around. These extreme fans need to understand that canceling a celebrity or ruining someone’s career in such a toxic manner won’t fix things. It contributes to the problem that idols should be perfect and increases the tense work environment idols face. If they can’t smoke outside due to fans and paparazzi leaking photos of them, then where can they even smoke in peace? These barriers and restrictions on idols’ lives, alongside abusive cancel culture, can lead to celebrities having mental health issues, causing self-harm or worse. You know the worst.

Credit: MBC

The argument being tossed around quite a lot is that Ji Chang Wook is an adult abusing his power. He has a right to his own choices but he should not be excused from the law. If idols want to truly apologize and show that they are willing to grow from their mistakes then paying a fine and apologizing to staff instead would be more beneficial than fans canceling him. Losing another precious and talented actor won’t solve anything.

Despite being an independent human being, Ji Chang Wook is associated with an act and persona that represents a set of morals set by society alongside the company’s values. Bad behavior is reflective of the company and his image. Alongside this, his health choices shouldn’t conflict with or harm others. The factor that upsets fans most seems to be the lack of judgment and consideration for the team of Welcome to Samdalri. Considering the actions, getting caught smoking was not a great thing.

Although it’s unrealistic to assume that every fan who saw Ji Chang Wook smoking will be influenced by his habit, it is realistic to hold him accountable for his actions. If the company and the set owners do not wish to fine him and feel no harm was done from his actions, then that is their choice to make – not fans. The apology belongs to the people involved in the room with Ji Chang Wook. It isn’t anything to cancel him over.

Credit: JTCB Welcome To Samdalri

Lastly, for artists who do smoke openly and in appropriate spaces, fans shouldn’t be demanding apologies or corporal punishment for artists doing something entirely legal and optional in their lives. This behavior and action is a twisted use of fan power. The artist may have offended you by smoking so you yourself alone can make a progressive choice in your own life to not support them if you choose to. There are plenty of other artists who do not smoke that you can support. So isn’t it better to leave their reputation alone and use your fan power responsibly too?

Overall, I believe fans should be more concerned with Ji Chang Wook’s health too and let his agency take more responsibility as well. Often in Korea, people smoke due to stress. Ji Chang Wook’s company should take this as an opportunity to check on his health conditions and provide him the proper rest, supplements, or care that can help him relax rather than turning to smoking. They should be caring in reminding him of his responsibilities and due accident control to prevent future issues like this. Offering an apology is just one step but more should be done to prevent conflict among fans and artists.

What are your thoughts on the situation and this OP:ED? Leave a wordy comment down below and try to engage in the situation in a healthy way.

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192 Points
  • really crazy what the expectations for entertainers. They are human beings not robots get over yourself Korean fans. They can come to another country and then you won’t have any stars. Get a life!

  • Why is it a Scandal? It’s a freedom of choice in USA. In some of your dramas the actors smoke. You shame people so much they can’t even live without fear. No wonder so many suicides in your country. Don’t understand this.

  • I have never read such obvious harsh criticism before on an actor even though it’s a cultural thing he is an adult human being with feelings it seems that you are too free with your comments that can harm mental health he may be an idol and performer but is the whole population going to start smoking because he does ! Give him credit for the good he does and stop being so petty one mistake does not mean an end to his career for heavens sake !

  • While not healthy, it is a personal choice but I do believe that, without consent, there should be no smoking around others and in public spaces. I find it funny that so many Kdramas still have actors smoking for their roles at some point in the storyline. Smoking is not reason enough to ruin someone’s career.

  • No he should not be canceled this is absolutely ridiculous he is amazing and he dud apologized

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