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Drinking Culture of South Korea

   Something that initiated as a means to celebrate holidays and seasonal events now form a part of fairly recognized Korean culture. It is not just a mode of entertainment for Koreans, it forms a part of long drawn tradition developed over centuries and in present era stands as one of the symbols of cultural advancement.

   Korean drinking isn’t just about how much you drink or what all you drink, neither is it just a part of their meals rather it has a much deep rooted presence due to the popular Confucian ideals. It involves etiquettes, some well-defined rules, respect towards elders and a belief that this helps break down the hierarchical barriers in terms of age and positons in the society. Modern Korea doesn’t restrict drinking to special events and occasions, rather it has become an obligation in this industrial giant.

   This omnipresent stress buster is easily available at every nook and corner of this n.ation whether it be supermarket, restaurants, hotels, convenience stores, bars and even hospitals at the unbelievably cheap prices. This allows its consumption equally among all sections of the society whether be it students, employees, young or old. Despite the likeliness towards many forms of alcohol, the one that holds a special place in the hearts of Koreans is Soju, a drink made from a fermented rice comprising of 20% alcohol content. But the question that confuse the world is what makes this culture so persistent? The reasons for drinking has evolved over the years and now alcohol is a glue to strengthen social and interpersonal relations among coworkers. Its easy availability and accessibility further adds on to its advantage. Despite repeated claims by the government regarding increased strictness on the sales of alcohol, the reality presents a different face. Alcohol in Korea is cheaper than the drinking water bottles in many western countries and in terms of quantity, there is no barrier whatsoever.

   While values and culture are meant to act as instruments of social harmony, these very values now act as a catalyst to this drinking culture. Refusing a drink offered is seen as rude and is generally avoided unless there is a very strong medical condition which is unavoidable. A senior or an elder offering a drink is generally an indication of his/hers compliment towards the fellow and turning this compliment down may not be very good for the career path. While on the contrary, an accepting gesture might not be in any way helpful. The extent of this culture is visible from the fact that rather than bringing down the extent of drinking, the residents have rather preferred the hangover cures in form of soups, grapefruit ice creams etc.

   So, with all such advantages and cure available at hand why is this unique drinking culture a growing concern among the Korean society? Resorting to drinking in order to cope up with stress can be justified at some instances but it is neither a permanent nor the only cure to deal with stress. Secondly, drinking etiquette and showcasing respect is increasingly promoting alcohol over consumption. The extent of this culture is so high that the average consumption quantity of USA and Russia which stands at 3 and 6 respectively stands much behind the Korean average of 14 shots per week.

   Continuous avoidance of government and lack of awareness about the health risks of heavy drinking has made people oblivion towards the curse this temporary entertainment brings along with it. Korean population is now witnessing itself increasingly bounded by the clutches of diseases such as liver cirrhosis, stomach ulcers, acid reflux, heartburn, gastritis etc. Korea is increasingly becoming a land of alcoholics and despite this poor reality, the government as well as the celebrities who shamelessly promote this culture seems to be unaffected. As per the police reports, alcohol is involved in over 75% of public offences and 40% of all violent crimes. Lenient behavior of both police force and judiciary along with lack of therapeutic interventions further boosts alcohol induced criminal behavior. Unaltered and unrestricted consumption is not just impacting the drinkers or their families but the society as a whole as every year the Korean government has to spend billions of US dollars just to nullify alcoholic aftereffects.

   It is high time for the government, police, judiciary, celebrities and society as a whole to realize the evil growing in the country’s backyard and accept the responsibility to regulate if not eradicate this menace.

References:

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drinking_culture_of_Korea
  2. https://www.90daykorean.com/drinking-culture-in-korea/
  3. https://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/parts-unknown-bourdain-korea-drinking/index.html
  4. https://seoulistic.com/korean-culture/drinking-culture-in-south-korea-and-why-its-important/
  5. https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2016/02/country-world-worst-drink-problem-160202120308308.html
  6. https://themonsoonproject.org/2016/10/10/a-sobering-look-at-south-koreas-drinking-culture/
  7. http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/opinon/2015/03/197_157100.html

 

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