Actress Kim Bu-seon
By Kim Rahn
Actress Kim Bu-seon's calls on national TV for marijuana use to be legalized are causing a public uproar.
In a pre-recorded interview on MBC's live morning show on Friday, the 46-year-old, who has advocated the legalization of the drug, said, ``Marijuana is not a narcotic; it is technically an Oriental herbal medicine which Koreans have used for 5,000 years.''
Kim, who has been arrested for marijuana use several times, launched a campaign for the drug's legalization in 2004 after being sentenced to a suspended jail term. She then filed a petition with the Constitutional Court for a review of the constitutionality of the country's marijuana-related laws.
In MBC interview, she took the opportunity to protest the recent arrest of actor Oh Gwang-rok on charges of marijuana use, saying his actions caused no harm and that the drug did not affect his ability to act.
``Have you ever heard of any news that I committed a crime after smoking marijuana? I have never done anything harmful, as politicians or thieves have," she said.
The actress also claimed that marijuana use can be beneficial to people with certain medical conditions.
``If smoking it doesn't do harm to others, those who do need it, such as those suffering from depression or cancer patients, should be allowed to use it. Marijuana increases appetite and improves sleep," she continued.
``Korea has the highest ratio of death by suicide among OECD members. The nation needs to take marijuana as a depression remedy and make depression patients come back to society."
She also claimed that investigations into entertainers who smoke cannabis were politically motivated.
``Whenever the government has troubles, it uses drug-taking entertainers to divert people's attention. It is the best way to make entertainers and artists obey the government,'' Kim said.
After the interview, the show's host Shin Dong-ho said that he has a different opinion, but added that he would defend her right to speak out on her beliefs if she gets in trouble because of the remarks.
TV viewers and Internet users have attacked Kim and MBC over the comments. A blogger identified as findsoul said, ``If marijuana is an Oriental medicine, is methamphetamine a Western medicine? It is not right to justify narcotics even though it is a minority opinion."
Another called sinwoos2002 said, ``MBC, a public TV station, broadcast that marijuana could be helpful for society. It is obviously quite a low-quality show."
A number of people have demanded that MBC issue an apology for airing the controversial interview.