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Do South Koreans drink too much?


South Korea is known for its high alcohol consumption rates, with its citizens consuming more alcohol per capita than any other country. While drinking is a significant part of Korean culture, it has also caused many problems, such as alcohol-related crimes and health issues. In this article, we will explore whether South Koreans drink too much and the reasons behind their high alcohol consumption.

Alcohol Consumption in South Korea

South Koreans consume an average of 12.3 liters of alcohol per person annually, which is more than twice the global average. The country has a strong drinking culture, and alcohol is often used to build social connections and strengthen professional relationships. However, excessive drinking has led to numerous problems, including domestic violence, car accidents, and even death from alcohol poisoning.

The Effects of Alcohol on Health

Excessive alcohol consumption can have severe health consequences. In South Korea, the high rate of liver disease and liver cancer is believed to be linked to heavy drinking. Additionally, alcohol can lead to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

Drinking Culture in South Korea

Drinking is an essential part of Korean culture and is often associated with socializing and networking. Business deals and job promotions often involve drinking sessions with colleagues or superiors, making it difficult for individuals to refuse a drink without causing offense.

The Role of Government in Regulating Alcohol

The South Korean government has implemented several policies aimed at reducing excessive drinking, such as raising taxes on alcohol and enforcing stricter drunk driving laws. However, these measures have had limited success due to the ingrained drinking culture in the country.

Alcohol-Related Crimes

Excessive drinking has also contributed to high rates of alcohol-related crimes in South Korea. Domestic violence and sexual assault are prevalent issues linked to heavy drinking, with alcohol often used as an excuse for violent behavior.

The Impact of Alcohol on the Economy

Alcohol-related issues such as absenteeism, decreased productivity, and healthcare costs have a negative impact on the South Korean economy. The government has estimated that alcohol-related issues cost the country around $20 billion annually.

Reasons Behind High Alcohol Consumption Rates

There are several reasons behind South Korea’s high alcohol consumption rates. These include cultural norms, peer pressure, and the use of alcohol to relieve work-related stress. Additionally, the availability of cheap alcohol and the popularity of drinking games have contributed to the problem.

Efforts to Combat Excessive Drinking

Several organizations in South Korea are working to reduce excessive drinking rates, including the Korean Alcohol Research Foundation and the National Health Insurance Service. These organizations provide resources and support for individuals struggling with alcohol addiction.

Alternative Beverages

To combat excessive drinking, some South Koreans are turning to alternative beverages such as non-alcoholic beer and fruit-based drinks. These beverages are becoming increasingly popular and may help reduce overall alcohol consumption rates in the country.


South Korea’s high alcohol consumption rates have led to numerous problems, including health issues, alcohol-related crimes, and economic costs. While efforts are being made to combat excessive drinking, changing deeply ingrained cultural norms will be a challenge. However, with continued education and support, it is possible to reduce harmful drinking habits in South Korea.


1. “Heavy Drinking Culture in Korea: Why We Drink.” The Korea Times.
2. “Alcohol in South Korea.” Wikipedia.
3. “South Korea’s Soju: The World’s Best-Selling Spirit You May Never Have Heard Of.” NPR.
4. “South Korea’s Alcohol-Related Issues Cost $20 Billion Annually.” The Korea Times.
5. “South Korea’s Drink Problem.” The Economist.

Why do South Koreans drink so much alcohol?

Drinking has become a significant aspect of socializing in modern Korea, regardless of the environment. A majority of Koreans view drinking as an essential aspect of social life, and it is common to drink excessively during times of happiness, stress, and other emotions.

How much does the average South Korean drink?

On average, people in South Korea consume 13.7 shots of alcohol per week, which is the highest amount in the world. Euromonitor analyzed 44 other countries and found that none even came close to this level of alcohol consumption. This data is from February 2, 2014.

Is there a big drinking culture in Korea?

Alcohol is deeply ingrained in South Korean culture and is considered an essential aspect of their social lives. In fact, there is a cultural expectation to drink, especially during important events and holidays like New Year, Rice Planting, and their Day of Thanks.

Which country drinks the most Korea?

South Koreans have a unique fondness for Soju, a type of fermented rice drink, which is believed to be the primary reason for their disproportionately high alcohol consumption compared to other countries. In fact, no other country even comes close to their per capita consumption. Vietnam is the second-highest country in terms of alcohol consumption after South Korea.

Why do Koreans turn away when drinking?

As a gesture of respect, Koreans will turn their heads away when taking a sip of their drink in the presence of an elder, rather than drinking directly facing them. This is a common practice in Korean culture.

Which country drinks the most alcohol?

Belarus is known for having the highest consumption of pure alcohol per capita in the world, and also has been identified as having a particularly dangerous drinking culture. This was reported on January 17th, 2023.

Education and Awareness Programs

Education and awareness programs are essential in reducing excessive drinking rates in South Korea. These programs can help individuals understand the dangers of heavy drinking and provide them with information on how to reduce their alcohol intake. The government, schools, and community organizations can work together to increase awareness of the risks associated with alcohol consumption.

Encouraging Healthy Alternatives

Encouraging healthy alternatives to drinking can also be an effective way to reduce excessive drinking rates. Exercise, meditation, and other stress-relieving activities can help individuals cope with work-related stress without turning to alcohol. Additionally, promoting non-alcoholic beverages and providing healthier food options at drinking establishments can help reduce overall alcohol consumption.

Support for Alcohol Addiction

Individuals struggling with alcohol addiction need support to overcome their dependence on alcohol. The South Korean government should provide more resources for individuals seeking treatment for alcohol addiction. This could include increased funding for rehabilitation centers, counseling services, and support groups.

Changing Work Culture

Changing the work culture in South Korea may also help reduce excessive drinking rates. Companies could encourage alternative ways of socializing among colleagues, such as team-building activities that do not involve alcohol. Additionally, employers could offer mental health resources and support to help employees manage stress without turning to alcohol.


Reducing excessive drinking rates in South Korea will require a multi-faceted approach that addresses cultural norms, education, and support for those struggling with alcohol addiction. While changing deeply ingrained cultural norms will be a challenge, continued efforts by the government, community organizations, and individuals can make a difference in reducing harmful drinking habits. By promoting healthy alternatives and providing support for those in need, South Korea can work towards a healthier and more sustainable future.

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