The Korea Herald


[Pressure points] Grilling meat on apartment balcony: right or public nuisance?

By No Kyung-min

Published : Jan. 23, 2024 - 16:24

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This photo of a person grilling pork belly on a portable gas burner inside an enclosed apartment balcony has touched off a heated online debate. (Courtesy of online community) This photo of a person grilling pork belly on a portable gas burner inside an enclosed apartment balcony has touched off a heated online debate. (Courtesy of online community)

It might seem an ordinary domestic scene -- a picture of someone grilling pork belly on the enclosed balcony of their apartment -- but it touched off a storm of debate.

The person who uploaded the photo said a neighbor living above them had taken exception to the smell and smoke coming from the barbecuing downstairs.

Expressing bewilderment about how grilling in one’s own home could be deemed inappropriate, the anonymous poster posed the question: “Was this really a public nuisance?"

According to the author of the post, their friend had told the complaining neighbor at the time that there was nothing wrong with grilling meat on one's personal property.

Some online users sided with the author, questioning the legitimacy of the neighbor's complaint: "Can't I even cook pork in my own home?"

Taking a more critical stance, one online user argued that the complaining neighbor was ill-suited to apartment living and suggested relocating to “a free-standing house if the mere smell of cooking pork belly is intolerable.”

Grilling meat directly at one's dining table is a distinctive feature of Korean cuisine, and is what Korean barbecue is all about.

Another online user pointed out that grilling pork in the kitchen would also require ventilation through the windows, making it essentially no different to cooking on the balcony.

“If indoor (pork) barbecuing is to be discouraged, what about grilling fish, which has a similarly strong smell and smoke problems?” another asked.

Some said that a little dinner party in the uninsulated, enclosed balcony space is less about the smell of the pork than about the noise level. "As long as they dine quietly on the balcony, there should be no issue," remarked one user.

On the other hand, others viewed the author's actions as inconsiderate, lacking in the basic etiquette needed for communal living.

"Why grill pork belly on the balcony, when you can use the kitchen with its built-in ventilator?" one comment asked.

Others said that asserting the right to do anything within one's home is no different from asserting the right to smoking indoors. In Korea's apartment complexes, smoking indoors, even in the bathrooms, is heavily frowned upon as the smoke wafting through vents could bother others.

Some say that the smoke and odor of grilled pork could directly affect another's belongings.

"They can make laundry hanging out on the balcony stinky," commented one user.

Another concern revolves around health. Local experts have cautioned that the smoke produced during the grilling of pork can pose a health threat, containing carcinogenic organic compounds such as benzopyrene and indenopyrene, as well as harmful substances like carbon monoxide.

However, the existing legal framework falls short of providing any basis to penalize neighbors responsible for causing discomfort, given the challenge of defining the smell of grilled pork as a "malodor."

Article 3 of the Chapter 1 of the Malodor Prevention Act dictates, “all people shall endeavor to prevent malodor so as to avoid harm to the livelihood of other people when they engage in business or in daily lives, such as cooking food, raising animals or growing vegetables, and fully cooperate with policies to prevent malodor implemented by the state or local governments.”

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"Pressure points" delves into the seemingly trivial, yet surprisingly contentious topics that ignite debate in our everyday lives. -- Ed.