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Is public drinking legal in Korea?


Public drinking is a common cultural practice in many countries, but it’s essential to know the legal implications of such activities. Korea is known for its strict laws and regulations, and it’s natural to wonder if public drinking is legal. This article aims to explore the legality of public drinking in Korea.

The Legal Framework of Drinking in Korea

Korea regulates alcohol consumption under the National Health Promotion Act. The act provides guidelines on where and when people can drink. While the act doesn’t explicitly ban public drinking, it requires people to drink in designated areas such as bars, restaurants, and clubs. Additionally, the act stipulates that minors under the age of 19 cannot drink alcohol.

Is Public Drinking Legal?

The Korean government has been cracking down on public drinking in recent years, citing concerns about noise pollution, littering, and public disturbances. Police officers can fine individuals caught drinking in unapproved locations. However, many Koreans continue to engage in public drinking despite the risks.

Drinking Culture in Korea

Drinking is a central part of Korean culture, with many social events revolving around it. Koreans often use drinking as a way to bond with friends and colleagues, making it difficult to enforce laws against public drinking.

Designated Drinking Zones

To regulate public drinking, some Korean cities have designated outdoor areas where people can drink legally. These zones often have strict rules about noise levels and littering.

Penalties for Public Drinking

Individuals caught drinking in unapproved locations may face fines ranging from 50,000 won ($42) to 100,000 won ($84). Repeat offenders may face higher fines or even imprisonment.

Why People Drink in Public?

People drink in public for various reasons. Some do it to save money on expensive drinks at bars, while others do it to enjoy the outdoors. Others may drink in public to avoid social stigmas associated with drinking alone.

The Impact of Public Drinking

Public drinking can have several negative impacts on the community. It can lead to noise pollution, littering, and public disturbances. Additionally, excessive drinking can lead to health problems and alcohol-related accidents.

Drinking Laws in Other Countries

Korea is not alone in regulating public drinking. Many countries have laws restricting where people can drink alcohol. For example, in Japan, public drinking is strictly forbidden, and individuals caught drinking outside can face severe penalties.

Advice for Travelers

Foreigners visiting Korea should be aware of the country’s strict laws on public drinking. It’s best to avoid drinking in public and stick to designated drinking areas such as bars and restaurants. Additionally, travelers should be mindful of noise levels and littering to avoid fines or potential legal trouble.


Public drinking is a contentious issue in Korea, with many Koreans ignoring regulations against it. While public drinking is technically illegal in Korea, enforcement of these laws varies depending on the city and location. It’s crucial for individuals to be aware of the legal implications of public drinking and to follow local regulations to avoid fines or imprisonment.

Can I drink in public in Korea?

In Korea, the legal age to consume alcohol is 19 years old. While it is allowed to drink in public, behaving recklessly while under the influence of alcohol can lead to significant fines and potential legal trouble.

Can you drink while walking in Korea?

South Korea does not have laws against open containers, so it is common to see people drinking in public places like the beach or park. However, it is important to note that driving under the influence is still illegal and should not be done.

Is drinking alcohol normal in Korea?

Drinking has become a significant aspect of socializing in modern Korean society, with a vast majority of Koreans considering it an essential part of social life. Koreans tend to drink heavily, whether they are celebrating, feeling stressed, or experiencing other emotions.

Can foreigners drink alcohol in Korea?

When visiting bars, nightclubs, restaurants, and “pochas” or “hofs” in South Korea, foreigners can expect to be asked for their passport or ID. Some clubs may not allow those who are underage to enter.

Is it OK to kiss in public in Korea?

In South Korea, public displays of affection, such as kissing, are considered improper and are disapproved of by older generations. While the younger generation is more accepting, it is still not widely accepted by elders. Additionally, dressing well is seen as a sign of respect in South Korean culture.

Can you drink in the street in Seoul?

In South Korea, it is generally allowed to drink in public. However, if someone becomes drunk and behaves in a disruptive or disorderly way by using vulgar language or engaging in inappropriate conduct in a public place, they can be fined up to 100,000 won.

It’s also important to note that alcohol consumption in Korea is often associated with cultural norms, and the pressure to drink can be high in certain social situations. Individuals who choose not to drink may face social stigma or exclusion from their peers. This cultural pressure can make it challenging for some Koreans to adhere to laws against public drinking.

To address the issue of public drinking, some Korean cities have implemented alternative solutions. For example, some cities have designated areas where individuals can enjoy outdoor activities and consume alcohol legally. These areas are often equipped with trash cans and other facilities to reduce littering and promote responsible drinking.

In addition to public drinking laws, Korea has strict laws regarding drunk driving. Individuals caught driving under the influence may face severe penalties, including fines, imprisonment, and the revocation of their driver’s license. Therefore, it’s crucial for individuals to plan ahead and use alternative transportation options when consuming alcohol.

Ultimately, while public drinking is technically illegal in Korea, enforcement of these laws can vary depending on the location and circumstances. However, it’s essential for individuals to be aware of the potential legal implications of public drinking and to act responsibly when consuming alcohol. By doing so, individuals can help promote a safe and enjoyable drinking culture in Korea.

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