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What is Korea’s drinking age?


In this article, we will be discussing the drinking age in Korea. It is important to understand the laws and regulations surrounding alcohol consumption in different countries, especially if you are planning to travel there or reside as an expat.

History of Korea’s Drinking Age

Korea’s drinking age has gone through various changes over the years. In 1973, the legal age for drinking was set at 21 years old. However, in 1999, it was lowered to 20 years old, and then again in 2021, it was lowered to 19 years old.

Current Drinking Age in Korea

As of July 2021, the legal drinking age in Korea is 19 years old. This applies to both Korean citizens and foreigners residing in Korea. It is important to note that purchasing and consuming alcohol under the legal age can lead to fines and even imprisonment.

Types of Alcohol Allowed for Consumption

In Korea, only those who are 19 years old or above are allowed to consume alcohol. However, there are certain types of alcoholic beverages that are restricted even for those who are legally allowed to drink. For example, soju, a popular Korean alcoholic beverage, can only be sold after 10 pm.

Penalties for Underage Drinking

Those who are caught drinking under the legal age can face serious consequences in Korea. The penalties include fines ranging from ₩500,000 to ₩3 million (approximately $440 to $2,630), suspension of driver’s license and even imprisonment up to one year.

Drinking Culture in Korea

Korea has a unique drinking culture that involves a lot of socializing and bonding over alcohol. It is common for colleagues and friends to go out for drinks after work or during weekends. However, it is important to drink responsibly and make sure not to exceed the legal limit.

Alcohol Sales and Availability

Alcohol sales in Korea are heavily regulated, with restrictions on when and where alcohol can be sold. Convenience stores and supermarkets are not allowed to sell alcohol after midnight. In addition, there are certain days of the year, such as election days or national holidays, when alcohol sales are prohibited.

Alcohol Consumption during COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the way people consume alcohol in Korea. To prevent the spread of the virus, drinking establishments have to follow strict guidelines such as limiting the number of customers and closing early.

Drinking Etiquette in Korea

Korea has its own set of drinking etiquette that foreigners should be aware of. For example, it is common for someone to pour drinks for others rather than themselves. It is also considered polite to turn away from seniors or superiors when taking a shot.

Alcohol-related Incidents in Korea

Despite the strict regulations and penalties, alcohol-related incidents still occur in Korea. In 2019, there were over 6,000 cases of drunk driving accidents reported. This highlights the importance of responsible drinking and adhering to the legal drinking age.


In conclusion, the legal drinking age in Korea is 19 years old. It is important to understand the laws and regulations surrounding alcohol consumption in Korea to avoid any legal consequences. It is also crucial to practice responsible drinking and adhere to the drinking etiquette in Korea.

Is 18 a minor in Korea?

When we refer to a “child,” we mean someone who is not yet 18 years old.

What country is 13 the legal drinking age?

The minimum legal age for purchasing or consuming alcohol varies globally, with Burkina Faso setting it at 13 and Eritrea at 25.

What is Korean age vs American age?

In Korea, when you are born, you are considered to be one year old on that very day, as the time you spent inside the womb is counted as the first year of your life, even though it is actually only nine months. As a result, your Korean age will always be at least one year ahead of your international or Western age.

Which country is drinking age 15?

In Mali and the Central African Republic, the legal drinking age is 15 years old, which makes it the youngest drinking age in the world. This information was last reported on February 10th, 2022.

What is Japan’s drinking age?

The legal age of adulthood in Japan is 20 years old. It is against the law for anyone under this age to consume alcohol or smoke. It is important to note that pressuring someone to drink or smoke can have negative health and social effects, regardless of age.

Can you go to bars at 18 in Korea?

In Korea, individuals can legally consume alcohol once they reach 19 years old, but unruly behavior while under the influence can lead to costly penalties and involvement with law enforcement, despite public drinking being permitted.

Alternatives to Alcohol in Korea

For those who do not wish to consume alcohol, Korea offers a variety of non-alcoholic options. Popular choices include fruit juices, traditional teas such as barley tea or jujube tea, and carbonated drinks. Some restaurants also offer mocktails, which are mixed drinks that do not contain alcohol.

Alcohol Addiction in Korea

Alcohol addiction is a serious issue in Korea, with an estimated 1 in 10 Koreans suffering from some form of alcohol-related problem. The Korean government has implemented various measures to combat this issue, including increasing taxes on alcohol and promoting public awareness campaigns on the dangers of excessive drinking.

The Future of Korea’s Drinking Age

There is ongoing debate in Korea about whether the legal drinking age should be further lowered to 18 years old. Supporters argue that it would bring Korea in line with other countries and reduce underage drinking. However, opponents argue that lowering the age could lead to increased alcohol-related problems among young people.


In conclusion, understanding the legal drinking age and regulations in Korea is important for both locals and foreigners. It is essential to practice responsible drinking and adhere to the laws to avoid penalties or harm to oneself or others. While alcohol is a significant part of Korean culture, it is also important to recognize and address the potential risks and consequences of excessive drinking.

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