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>The Hard Truth About Drinking in Korea

May 6, 2011

>There is one subject I have avoided in my series of posts profiling women’s drinking habits in Korea (see the top set of links here),  its context in the bigger picture of drinking in Korean culture. I’m relieved someone else did it:  KorAm Journal in an April 2011 feature article by Oliver Saria, Hitting the Sauce.

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It was 10:00 PM. We were standing outside Seoul station watching the laser light show on the building across the street, waiting for the Jumbo Taxi that never came. Small groups of people, mostly middle-aged men, were gathered in small groups on the public plaza playing games that rattled like pebbles or dice. I was intent on keeping four over-tired children happy while watching the cab station where my husband had gone to try to get us a ride back to our hotel.

I was not paying attention until an empty beer bottle exploded on the pavement and skittered to rest against Joy’s stroller. A Korean man in a business suit took my elbow and said, in English, “You come. Bring children. These men not safe.” He ushered our family to a brighly lit spot on the edge of the plaza safely away from the men and their drinking games.

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Quoting the 2011 World Health Organization Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health, Saria states:

“Korea ranked 11th with a total per capita consumption of 14.80 liters of pure alcohol in 2005 (the most recent year studied). In other words, that’s the equivalent of everyone in Korea over the age of 15 drinking a staggering 196 bottles of Chamisul Original soju in the span of one year….

Though the top 10 boozers were composed of European nations (Republic of Moldova was no. 1), Korea, compared to other Asian countries, can drink the entire continent under the proverbial table. The next Asian country on the list, Japan, ranked far behind, in 55th place. Notably, Korea is the only Asian country even listed in the “Top 20.” (The United States, in case you were wondering, ranked 57th.)”

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It isn’t a pretty picture. Literally. If you are a Korean adoptive parent, take a deep breath before clicking the link to the article. You’ll have a hard time forgetting the banner photo.
With thanks to my friend, E., for sharing this article.
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