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Can you drink on the street in Korea?

Can You Drink on the Street in Korea?

Korea is a country known for its vibrant nightlife and drinking culture. However, many foreigners may wonder if it is legal to drink on the street in Korea. In this article, we will explore the laws and customs surrounding drinking in public spaces in Korea.

The Law on Drinking in Public Spaces

In Korea, it is illegal to drink alcohol in public spaces such as streets, parks, and beaches. Violators can face fines of up to 100,000 won (approximately $90 USD) or even imprisonment for repeated offenses. The law was implemented to maintain public safety and prevent public disturbances caused by excessive drinking.

Exceptions to the Law

However, there are some exceptions to the law. In designated areas such as outdoor festivals or events, drinking in public may be allowed with a permit. Some restaurants also have outdoor seating areas where customers can enjoy drinks outside, but this is not considered a public space.

Drinking Culture in Korea

Korea has a unique drinking culture that emphasizes social bonding and hierarchy. Drinking with colleagues or friends after work, known as “회식” (hoesik), is a common practice and often seen as a way to build relationships and network within a company or social group.

Etiquette When Drinking in Korea

When drinking in Korea, there are certain etiquette rules that should be followed. It is customary to pour drinks for others, especially those of a higher status or age. Refusing a drink offered by someone of higher status can be seen as disrespectful. It is also polite to use two hands when receiving or pouring drinks.

Popular Korean Alcoholic Beverages

Korea has a variety of alcoholic beverages that are popular among locals and tourists. Soju, a clear distilled liquor made from rice, is the most popular alcoholic beverage in Korea. Other popular drinks include beer, makgeolli (a sweet rice wine), and fruit-flavored soju.

Drinking Laws in Other Countries

Drinking laws vary from country to country. In some countries such as Germany and France, drinking alcohol in public spaces is legal as long as it does not cause public disturbances. In other countries such as the United States, drinking in public is illegal in most states.

The Consequences of Drinking in Public Spaces

Even though drinking in public spaces may be legal in some countries, it can still have consequences. Excessive and public drinking can lead to public disturbances, accidents, and health problems. It is important to drink responsibly and know the laws and customs of the country you are visiting.

Alternatives to Drinking on the Street

If you are looking for an alternative to drinking on the street, there are many options available in Korea. There are numerous bars and restaurants where you can enjoy a drink with friends or colleagues. Karaoke rooms, known as “노래방” (norae bang), are also popular places to drink and sing with friends.


In conclusion, it is illegal to drink on the street in Korea, but there are exceptions in designated areas. Korea has a unique drinking culture that emphasizes social bonding and hierarchy, and there are certain etiquette rules that should be followed when drinking with others. It is important to drink responsibly and know the laws and customs of the country you are visiting.

Further Reading

If you are interested in learning more about Korean drinking culture, we recommend reading “Korean Drinking: A Culture of Modesty” by Euny Hong and “The Korean Way of Drinking” by Hyunhee Park.

Can you drink alcohol on the streets in Korea?

In Korea, the legal age for drinking alcohol is 19. While drinking in public is allowed, being disorderly while under the influence can lead to significant fines and a visit to the police station.

Can you walk around and drink in Korea?

South Korea does not have any laws prohibiting open beverage containers, which means you may frequently see individuals drinking on the beach, having picnics in the park, or leaving bars with their drinks.

What is the Korean drinking rule?

In Korea, it is customary to show respect when giving an alcoholic drink to another adult by using both hands. Additionally, when pouring a drink, the bottle should be held with the right hand and the wrist of the right hand should be lightly held with the left hand.

Can you drink on the streets in Seoul?

Drinking in public is generally allowed in South Korea, but if someone becomes disorderly or uses inappropriate language while intoxicated, they can be fined up to 100,000 won.

Is street food illegal in Korea?

The sale of food by street vendors in public areas is considered illegal under national law, but there is no clear definition or consistent enforcement, leading to intermittent control and the continued sale of street vendor food.

Is it OK to kiss in public in South Korea?

In South Korea, public displays of affection such as kissing are frowned upon and viewed as inappropriate, particularly by older generations. While younger adults may be more accepting, elders still discourage such behavior. Additionally, dressing stylishly and respectfully is highly valued in South Korean culture.

It is also worth noting that underage drinking is strictly prohibited in Korea, with the legal drinking age being 19 years old. Minors caught drinking or purchasing alcohol can face fines and even imprisonment. It is important to always carry a valid ID when purchasing alcohol in Korea, as vendors are required by law to check the age of their customers.

Another aspect of Korean drinking culture is the “anju,” or food served with alcohol. It is common to order dishes such as fried chicken, spicy rice cakes, or seafood pancakes to accompany drinks. Anju not only helps to absorb the alcohol but also serves as a way to enhance the overall drinking experience.

In recent years, there has been a growing trend of non-alcoholic bars and drinks in Korea. These establishments offer creative and tasty mocktails and other non-alcoholic beverages for those who prefer not to drink or want to cut back on their alcohol consumption. This trend reflects a growing awareness of the importance of responsible drinking and a desire for healthier options.

Overall, understanding the laws and customs surrounding drinking in Korea is essential for visitors and residents alike. By following these guidelines and drinking responsibly, you can enjoy all that Korea’s vibrant drinking culture has to offer while ensuring your safety and the safety of those around you.

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