SEOUL, South Korea — According to reports, South Korean pro basketball player Lee Hyun-ho may have driven a little too hard to the goal of stopping teen smoking when he confronted several middle school-aged girls puffing it up on a public playground.
Though he scolded and then hit some of the teens on the head with the palm of his hand, netizens and even one of the parents showered Lee with praise for his actions.
According to police, Lee, a 6-3, 200 pound, 33-year-old forward for the Incheon ET Land Elephants and member of the Korean national basketball team, was booked without detention on charges of battery following calls to police by parents of the teens involved in the incident.
Lee told police he became angry after the confronted girls cursed at him and protested his intrusion on their privacy.
According to Yonhap News there were several other students with the girls, but their parents chose not to file charges against Lee.
I was with my wife and 4-year-old daughter when I saw them. It was a shock, but I understand that I should have addressed their misconduct in a better manner.
News of Lee’s actions quickly went viral in the Korean netizen community as largely supportive reactions were registered on social network sites. One Twitter account read: Good for you, Lee Hyun-ho. It’s awesome that you spoke out with courage.’ Another said, ‘Considering how things are these days, a man like Lee should be given an award for his act.’
When talking to the press, Lee said he perhaps should have handled the situation differently.
I was with my wife and 4-year-old daughter when I saw them, Lee said. It was a shock, but I understand that I should have addressed their misconduct in a better manner.
Lee also said one of the parents was gracious for his actions in confronting the teen-aged smokers.
When I apologized to the parents, one of them thanked me for showing that I cared about their kids, he said.
According to a government health survey last year the rate among Korean middle and high school students who smoked more than once a month has remained steady at around 12 percent since 2007. The figure is even higher among boys at 17 percent the study found.
The study also reported that 2.8 percent of Korean middle and high school students smoke more than 10 cigarettes on a daily basis.
Read more: Korea’s Hidden Women Smokers