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Can foreigners drink alcohol in Korea?


In this article, we will explore the topic of whether foreigners can drink alcohol in Korea. Drinking is an important aspect of Korean culture, but the country also has strict laws around alcohol consumption. Foreigners may wonder if they are allowed to drink in Korea, especially if they are not familiar with the local customs and laws. In this article, we will answer this question and explain the rules and regulations surrounding alcohol consumption in Korea.

Korean Drinking Culture

Drinking is a social activity in Korea, and it is often done in groups. Koreans believe that drinking together helps to build friendships and strengthen relationships. Alcohol is also seen as a way to relieve stress and relax after work. Korean drinking culture can be quite different from what foreigners are used to, as there are many customs and rituals associated with drinking, such as pouring drinks for others and using specific words to toast.

Laws around Alcohol Consumption in Korea

Korea has strict laws around alcohol consumption, and these apply to both locals and foreigners. The legal drinking age in Korea is 19, but some establishments may only allow those who are over 20 to enter. It is also illegal to drink in public places such as parks or on the street. Drunk driving is taken very seriously in Korea, and penalties can be severe.

Foreigners and Alcohol Consumption

Foreigners are allowed to drink alcohol in Korea, but they must follow the same laws as locals. This means that they must be over 19 years old and should not drink in public places. The police may be more lenient with foreigners who are not familiar with the laws, but it is still important to be aware of them.

Types of Alcohol in Korea

Korea has a rich culture of alcohol production, with many different types of drinks available. Some of the most popular include soju, makgeolli, and beer. Soju is a clear, distilled alcohol that is often mixed with other drinks or used in cocktails. Makgeolli is a traditional Korean rice wine that is slightly sweet and has a milky appearance. Beer is also very popular in Korea, and many Korean brands are available.

Drinking Etiquette in Korea

Korean drinking culture has its own set of etiquette rules that foreigners should be aware of. For example, it is customary to pour drinks for others and to use both hands when pouring for someone who is older or in a higher position. It is also important to use specific words when toasting, such as “gunbae” or “cheers.”

Places to Drink in Korea

There are many places where foreigners can drink in Korea, including bars, restaurants, and clubs. It is important to remember that some establishments may have dress codes or require reservations, so it is always best to check before visiting. Many Korean bars and clubs have karaoke machines and offer food as well as drinks.

Alcohol-Related Health Risks

Drinking alcohol can have negative health effects, and it is important to be aware of these risks. In Korea, there are concerns around binge drinking and alcohol-related illnesses such as liver disease. Foreigners should be mindful of their alcohol consumption and avoid excess drinking.

Korean Alcohol Brands

Korea has many popular alcohol brands that are enjoyed by locals and foreigners alike. Some of the most well-known brands include Jinro Soju, Cass beer, and Hite beer. These brands can be found in most bars and restaurants across the country.

Alcohol Prices in Korea

The price of alcohol in Korea can vary depending on where you go and what you drink. Soju is often the cheapest option, with a bottle costing around 1,000 won (less than $1 USD). Beer and other types of alcohol can be more expensive, especially in popular bars and clubs.

Alcohol and Korean Business Culture

Drinking is an important part of Korean business culture, and it is common for business meetings to take place over drinks. This can be challenging for foreigners who are not used to the custom, but it is important to participate in order to build relationships and show respect.


In conclusion, foreigners are allowed to drink alcohol in Korea, but they must follow the same laws and customs as locals. Drinking is an important part of Korean culture, but it is also important to be aware of the risks associated with alcohol consumption. By understanding the rules and customs surrounding alcohol in Korea, foreigners can enjoy the country’s rich drinking culture while staying safe and respectful.

Can I drink in Korea if I’m 18?

In Korea, individuals must be at least 19 years old to legally consume alcohol. While drinking in public is allowed, behaving poorly while under the influence of alcohol can lead to significant fines and even involve a trip to the police station.

Can you drink alcohol in public in Korea?

Drinking in public is allowed in South Korea, but those who become unruly or disruptive while intoxicated with rough language or behavior can be fined up to 100,000 won.

What is the drinking law in South Korea?

Recently, the legal limit for blood alcohol content has been reduced from 0.05% to 0.03%, which was the standard for the past 57 years.

Is it rude to refuse a drink in Korea?

When drinking with Korean co-workers, it is important to follow proper alcohol etiquette. It is impolite to turn down a drink from your boss, even if they offer you several. It is crucial to express gratitude if they pour you a glass.

How do you drink respectfully in Korea?

In Korean culture, it is customary to show respect when offering an alcoholic drink to another adult by using both hands. When pouring the drink, hold the bottle with your right hand and support your right wrist with your left hand.

Can a 20 year old date a 18 year old in Korea?

In South Korea, it is against the law to have sexual intercourse with someone under the age of 20, as defined by Korean age. This is considered statutory rape and there are no exceptions, even for those who are close in age.

Alcohol-Free Options in Korea

For those who prefer not to drink alcohol, there are many non-alcoholic options available in Korea. Soft drinks, juices, and teas are popular choices and can be found in most bars and restaurants. Some establishments also offer non-alcoholic cocktails or mocktails.

Alcohol Consumption during COVID-19

During the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been restrictions on alcohol consumption in some parts of Korea. In certain areas, bars and clubs have been closed or had their hours restricted in order to prevent the spread of the virus. It is important for foreigners to stay up-to-date on any changes to the regulations around alcohol consumption during this time.

Alcohol and Korean Festivals

Korean festivals often feature traditional drinks and food, and alcohol is a key part of the celebrations. For example, the Boryeong Mud Festival, held annually in July, features a “Mud Zone” where participants can enjoy mud-based activities while drinking beer and soju.

Alcohol and Korean Cuisine

Korean cuisine is often paired with specific types of alcohol. For example, grilled meat dishes are often served with soju, while spicy dishes are paired with beer. There are also many traditional Korean snacks that are designed to be eaten alongside drinks.

Alcohol Consumption and Tourism in Korea

Korea’s drinking culture is a popular attraction for tourists, with many visitors eager to try traditional Korean drinks and experience local bars and clubs. However, it is important for tourists to be aware of the laws and customs around alcohol consumption in order to avoid any legal issues or cultural misunderstandings.

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