SEOUL, June 29 (Yonhap) -- More than six months into the new coronavirus pandemic, wearing a face mask in public has become an everyday norm here.
Starting last month, the government tightened rules by mandating face masks on all buses, taxis and subways and allowing drivers to refuse passengers without masks.
But as the pandemic shows no sign of letting up and summer heat is making it more difficult to wear the thick anti-virus masks, a growing number of people are opting to not wear masks or cover only part of their faces.
This has even coined the term "tuk-sk," referring to wearing masks lower to only cover the wearer's chin, with "tuk" meaning chin in Korean.
With the country still reporting scores of new COVID-19 infections for days, however, this has emerged as a source of quarrels among passengers.
Last week, police asked the Seoul Southern District Court to detain a woman in her forties who had got into a bickering match with other passengers after they asked her to wear a mask.
The woman, who was apprehended at a subway No. 1 station, allegedly cursed at passengers asking her to wear a mask and delayed the train schedule for around seven minutes.
Police said the issue should not be taken lightly considering that "mandatorily wearing a mask on public transportation is an issue that is directly related to public health."
The court, however, denied the request, citing that the woman said she didn't wear the face mask due to health-related reasons and promised to wear it going forward.
Earlier this month, a man in his fifties was formally detained by the Seoul Eastern District Court after assaulting a bus driver and another passenger who asked him to wear a face mask.
Similar cases have been reported across the country.
In fact, police said that around 840 cases of fights between drivers and passengers have been reported in the past month since face masks became mandatory on public transportation.
People have been booked in 43 cases, with 25 of them occurring on buses. Cases that happened in taxis and on subways came in at 13 and five cases, respectively.
All but one of the booked people were men, with the majority of them in their fifties and sixties, the police said, adding that they plan to handle such cases more strongly and consult with transportation operators.
Meanwhile, health authorities have advised people to temporarily take off their masks outdoors on hot days as daytime highs have soared over 35 C on some days.
The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that wearing masks outdoors can drive up heart rates and breathing rates, advising people to take off masks as long as distances between people are kept at 2 meters.
BTS to appear on Korean TV shows this month
(LEAD) 2 patients die after AstraZeneca vaccine shots; study under way over potential connection
Three more die after receiving AstraZeneca vaccine
J-Hope releases new song 'Blue Side' on 'Hope World' anniversary
'Please Look After Mom' author vows to 'write on' following plagiarism row
Couple indicted on murder charge over fatal abuse of 10-year-old niece
85,000 foreign workers in Gyeonggi ordered to take COVID-19 test before March 22
S. Korea tentatively concludes no link between COVID-19 vaccination and deaths
Another delivery worker dies from apparent overwork
(LEAD) S. Korea, U.S. reach defense cost-sharing agreement