Chosun Ilbo declares war on public drunkeness

In a series of special reports entitled “Korea, Where a Culture Tolerant of Drinking Promotes Crime,” Ye Olde Chosun uncovers that in Korea, drunk people act really stupid.

In fact, Korea’s paper of record sent 14 reporters from its society desk to 14 Seoul police stations, major entertainment districts and subway stations, where they learned that drunk people get into fights, swear at police and puke a lot.

They did come up with some interesting facts, though. Police apparently get nearly 360,000 reports of drunken disturbances a year (2010); 26.6% of the work police patrols do is dealing with drunks. In Korea, nearly 6 million adults drink a day; 9.52 million bottles of beer and 8.96 million bottles of soju get consumed daily.

Ye Olde Chosun also compared the Korean public drunkeness situation with the situation overseas. In Sinchon, the Chosun met with a 23-year-old Floridian by the name of Cotey, who was shocked by the displays of public drunkenness. He noted that in Florida—where, apparently, you can spend 18 minutes eating another man’s face off on a busy causeway in broad daylight—police are always at the ready on the main streets, sending drunks home and arresting those who don’t comply. He noted that drunks can do dangerous things at any time, but it seemed in Korea, there was no sense of alarm about this.

Anyway, the Chosun notes that in foreign countries like the United States (the example of Virginia cited) and Japan, drunken disturbances and even public drunkenness itself is punished severely. It also contrasted how overseas, it was hard to find places that sell booze past midnight, whereas in Korea, finding a place to buy booze at night is not usually a problem. One foreigner told the paper that Korea is perhaps the only country in the world where you can get drunk for a 1,000 won—1,000 won being the cost of a bottle of soju at your local grocery store.

Marmot’s Notes

1. Journalists complaining about drunkenness. Who said Koreans don’t do irony?

2. Being that I’m no longer 20 and single, I hardly go out drinking these days, but frankly, I like the fact that in Korea, you can get smashed for 1,000 won. Say what you will, but at least Korea is fun at night. The nightlife is one of the things that makes this country such an interesting place to live. Sure, when somebody gets out of hand, the police need to handle matters with perhaps a bit more, ahem, vigor than they’ve displaced so far, but the last thing anybody should want is Korea to adopt public drunkenness and liquor laws like the United States, where an 18-year-old can get sent to Afghanistan but can’t order an effing beer.

UPDATE: English version of one of the pieces here.

  • Creo69

    Not quite sure how the Korean media will eventually attribute all displays of public drunkenness to foreigners … but as they say, “Where there is a will…”


  • F5Waeg

    1000 Won? Cmon, that’s a bit lightweight. At least two jugs of rice win, cost around1600-1800. . .that’ll set you on the right path. If you feel like splurging, two bottles of soju will set you back 2000. Feeling extravagant? 3 bottles of beer and a bottle of soju for 5000 . . . how come these reporters can never get their numbers straight?

  • Yu Bum Suk

    I bet not many reporters could get smashed for W1,000.

  • Wedge

    The tolerance for drunkenness is one of Korea’s strengths. I hope the Chosun isn’t doing this as a trial balloon for government action.

  • Mryouknowwho

    I’d be willing to believe that Westerners are responsible for this.

    This article points the finger at foreigners for influencing Koreans to be apathetic to drunks running onto baseball fields during pro games and to do it themselves.

    “Even so, this year, with baseball fever running high, foreign spectators have begun to run onto the field and Korean fans are even supporting them.”

    “Starting with foreigners running onto the field, now Korean fans are doing it too. ”

    Funny thing is, I knew that guy. Hadn’t seen him in a couple months and then bumped into him at a bar. I said, “Hey, I saw you last week.” He said, “Where?” I said, “On the internet.” And we had a good laugh.

    He claimed he wasn’t drunk, but was overtaken by the urge to slide into home plate.

  • R. Elgin

    Humm, I am sitting here, drinking a nice French wine while reading this just before 5pm, wondering why the Chosun Ilbo does not write about other issues that deserve more public awareness. I am so glad I don’t write for them because then I would have to drink something cheaper.

  • Creo69

    Anyone who thinks this is not a matter of public importance is in denial, delusional or has simply deveoped a serious dependency on alcohol like far too many of the locals.

    When I was in the hospital for a minor surgery, three out of the six Koreans I shared a room with during the course of a week were in the hospital as a result of an injury which occurred while they were under the influence of alcohol.

    Alcohol related illnesses, domestic abuse against spouses and children, a whole lot of lost workplace productivity. It is a serious matter for public concern which needs to be addressed.

  • Lliane

    Alcohol is a huge problem is korea and anyone denying that is probably an alcoholic

  • keith

    ‘Alcohol is a huge problem in Korea’, no doubt! Crap domestic beer is cheap enough and that revolting soju stuff is cheap, but decent beers, wines and spirits are very expensive. I bought a double measure of single malt scotch the other night and it was 14000 won! I find that quite scandalous.

    It’s the same as tobacco here, a pack of cigs is very cheap, but a nice cigar is very expensive indeed.

  • commander

    I’ll drink to that!

  • Wedge

    #7 & 8: I’m going to go out on a limb and guess you don’t subscribe to this magazine:

  • R. Elgin

    Okay, how about the great lack of psychiatric help that is in Korea? I have encountered a far greater number of people that suffer from what appears to be psychological issues, ranging from forms of depression to addiction and all of this is more than just having a problem with alcohol.
    IMHO, after talking to various doctors and after some years of first-hand observation, I would be inclined to focus upon this issue instead how much alcohol is abused. There may be physiological reasons for being prone to addiction but there is the psychological that is largely ignored and left untreated.

  • R. Elgin

    P.S. “psychological aspect” that is.

  • R. Elgin

    P.S.S – as a sidenote to things psychological, I highly recommend the Cronenberg film “A Dangerous Method” that is currently being shown in Seoul.

    I really appreciate Dr. Jung’s work.

  • Creo69

    R Elgin,

    What you witness…depression and such…could very easily be some of the results of alcohol abuse. A stressful lifestyle compounded by one big continuous hangover and the inability to ever get out of the cycle for more than one, possibly two, extended periods in a year can result in some serious depression. Not to mention that the drinking also (contrary to popular belief in Korea) creates a constant source of relationship problems both at home and in the workplace. How could someone living this type of lifestyle not suffer from depression and other emotional disorders?

  • bibimbong

    “1. Journalists complaining about drunkenness. Who said Koreans don’t do irony?”

    no one. they do irony all the time, it’s just unintentional.

  • cm

    Look at the upside of this. At least they didn’t do the “foreigner drunkenness”.

  • momomo

    speaking of foreigners, this MBC clips is currently raising a massive stink in the waygookosphere:

  • CactusMcHarris

    The only time I got in a fight in Korea was with a drunken adj (I hadn’t been drinking). From what I’ve seen in Korea, it’s much like Japan in its alcohol consumption – too much. From what I read and watch here, it’s not gotten any better.

    But at least in both countries there’s anju…..

  • WangKon936

    Just came back from Toronto. Found out you can get smashed there (legally) if you are just 19. Who says Canadians aren’t fun loving folks?

  • WangKon936

    Just found out poutine is the Canadian kimchi or dim sum. Strange local food that the natives just can’t shut up about.

  • thekorean

    I bought a double measure of single malt scotch the other night and it was 14000 won! I find that quite scandalous.

    $13 for a glass of double Scotch? Obviously depends on what you ordered, but that doesn’t sound very expensive.

  • iMe

    These “journalists” need to spend a week or two in Mississippi’s dry counties (can’t sell or buy cold beer/liquor).

  • CactusMcHarris


    In a dry county, they can’t sell room-temperature beer either.

  • Pingback: Odds and Ends()

  • ZenKimchi

    I agree with the Marmot’s Notes on this one.

  • RolyPoly

    What I do not like about this whole thing is that liquor companies influence politicians to prevent any kind of regulation. And, these sellers of drug (yes, alcohol is a potent drug) want to ever expand their market.

    When I was growing up in Korea, a woman who drank even a glass of soju is considered a whore. A woman who got drunk at night brought shame on entire family. Entire neighborhood want them out. We look down on the family as “degenerates”.

    But now nearly all commercial on TV show young women drinking. And, they are promote women’s independence and professionalism as drinkers. Not a whore or a beggar, but a successful business woman taming their solitude.

    A bull crap.

    These liars will sell alcohol to the teens if they are allowed. They do not care about miseries – broken families, unrealized potentials, end of careers and crazy crimes (like two guys raping the girl while taking her to a hospital) – they cause. Everything and anything for money!

    They will go to Hell.

  • RolyPoly

    I think this is what separates Buddhism and Christianity. Buddhists do not curve drinking. I think it is even somewhat promoted. Monks drink. Some heavily.

    Another is prostitution. Thailand,which maybe the center of Buddhism, is also known for its prostitutes.

    Christianity has its value, even just looking at present earth and how humans should live.

    But, it is more. Much more if you consider the life after death.

  • Neal_0748

    Why do we only blame drunken younsters ? :( …As a one Korean student, sometimes couldn’t find anything but drinking to play with friends. While drinking, we rarely control ourselves either on purpose or by accident. If our goverment only give punishment to the smashed , that will be not helpful but boosting rebell then eventually fail to stop the young to get drunk. Also that is somehow not fair. We are like Korean kids who play in our playground which created well by someone who likes to watch us playing there. The creator might be the old who have us as their loyal customers for alcohol. So before making the law strict, hopefully reconsider what makes us drink and how solve it without taking alcohol in Korea.

  • babotaengi

    Funny story. Got hammered. Decided to take the dog for a walk. Wife said “No!”. Ended up wrestling with her for the dog. She won the wrestle. Locked the door behind me. I kicked the door in. Wrestled some more. Gave up. Went to sleep. She called the cops. Four cops show up. Ultimately decide they’re gonna lock me up. I said “It’s on!” had a fight. They got me down. Choked me out. On the way to the cop shop, the sergeant complained to me that if they’d been American cops, I’d not have shown them so little respect. I pointed out that if they’d been American cops, they’d have not shown me so little. He didn’t get it. Yes, Koreans do unintentional irony.

  • Colonial Anxiety

    @29, sounds like they gave you all the respect you deserved. A drunken fight with your wife over the dog, kicking the door in?

    And you think American cops would have treated you “better”? Ha.

  • Pingback: SeoulPodcast #131: The Shocking Truth | SeoulPodcast()

  • Pingback: How the Second Battle of Yeonpyeong is exploited « the dark side of korea()