S. Korea tries to 'smoke' out smugglers
ILLEGAL sites selling smuggled duty-free cigarettes at low prices have been steadily rising as the excise tax increase in South Korea last year nearly doubled domestic tobacco prices.
The Tobacco Business Act outlaws any online transactions of cigarette products, as well as sales by unregistered retailers.
These illegal sites operate their informal stores through blogs and other non-commercial channels.
Prices of the smuggled cigarettes can be as low as 2,900 won (S$3.40) per pack, significantly lower than the 4,500-won standard price at official retailers.
The products are smuggled into the country by carriers who purchase cigarettes at overseas duty-free shops.
According to data from Incheon Main Customs, cases of tobacco smuggling increased more than nine-fold between 2014 and 2015, from 49 to 449.
Legitimate cigarette sellers and industry watchers point out that these sites are not only detrimental to the tobacco industry as a whole, but also dangerous for customers who can receive damaged products or get cheated with no legal recourse.
THE KOREA HERALD/
ASIA NEWS NETWORK