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Why can’t Korean drink alcohol?

The Culture of Korean Drinking

South Korea has a rich and vibrant drinking culture, with a variety of alcoholic beverages that are enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. However, there are certain restrictions on who can drink alcohol in the country, particularly for Korean citizens. Here’s why:

History of Alcohol in Korea

Alcohol has been consumed in Korea for centuries, with traditional drinks like soju and makgeolli being popular among locals. However, it was during the Joseon Dynasty that drinking became more regulated, with strict laws around who could drink and where. These laws were put in place to maintain social order and prevent excessive drinking.

Drinking Age Laws in Korea

In South Korea, the legal drinking age is 19 years old. However, Korean citizens who are still in high school or below are not allowed to drink alcohol at all. This is to prevent underage drinking, which can be a serious problem in the country.

Religious Restrictions on Drinking

Korea is a predominantly Buddhist country, and many Buddhists choose not to drink alcohol as part of their religious beliefs. Additionally, some Christian sects also discourage or prohibit alcohol consumption, further contributing to the cultural aversion to drinking in Korea.

Social Pressure to Drink

Despite the legal restrictions and religious prohibitions on drinking, there is still a strong social pressure to consume alcohol in Korea. This is particularly true in workplace settings, where team bonding often involves heavy drinking sessions. Those who choose not to participate may face social ostracization or even professional repercussions.

Health Concerns Around Drinking

Korean culture places a strong emphasis on health and wellness, and many people choose to avoid alcohol for this reason. Heavy drinking is associated with a range of health problems, from liver disease to cancer, and many Koreans opt for a healthier lifestyle by abstaining from alcohol altogether.

Alcoholism in Korea

Despite the cultural aversion to drinking, alcoholism is still a significant problem in Korea. The country has one of the highest alcohol consumption rates in the world, and many people struggle with addiction and related issues. As a result, there are ongoing efforts to address this problem and promote responsible drinking practices.

Legal Consequences of Drinking

In addition to the social and health consequences of drinking, there are also legal implications for those who break the drinking laws in Korea. Underage drinking can result in fines or even imprisonment, while drunk driving is a serious offense that can lead to severe penalties and social stigma.

The Role of Alcohol in Korean Society

Despite the restrictions and concerns around drinking, alcohol still plays an important role in Korean society. It is often seen as a way to bond with friends and colleagues, and traditional drinks like soju are deeply ingrained in the local culture. However, there is also a growing awareness of the risks associated with excessive drinking, and many Koreans are choosing to consume alcohol more responsibly.

Global Attitudes Toward Drinking

Korea is not unique in its attitudes toward drinking; many cultures around the world have restrictions or prohibitions around alcohol consumption. For example, in some Muslim-majority countries, alcohol is completely illegal. Understanding these cultural differences can help promote tolerance and respect between different societies.

The Future of Drinking in Korea

As Korean society evolves and becomes more globalized, it is likely that attitudes toward drinking will continue to shift. There may be more emphasis on responsible drinking practices and health awareness, and a greater recognition of the risks associated with alcohol consumption. However, drinking will likely remain an important part of Korean culture and social life for many years to come.


Overall, the restrictions on drinking in Korea are driven by a range of cultural, religious, and health concerns. While there is still a significant social pressure to drink, there is also a growing awareness of the risks associated with excessive alcohol consumption. As Korea continues to evolve and adapt to changing global attitudes toward drinking, it is likely that these restrictions will continue to evolve as well.

Why do Koreans turn away when drinking alcohol?

In Korean culture, showing respect to an elder when drinking involves turning one’s head away instead of drinking directly in front of them. This tradition is still practiced today.

Can Korean people drink alcohol?

Korean culture has a rich history of enjoying alcoholic beverages as part of their celebrations for various holidays and seasonal events. These events, which honor ancestors and promote goodwill among neighbors and friends, include significant occasions such as New Year, Rice Planting Day, and Korea’s Day of Thanks.

Is alcohol banned in Korea?

In Korea, the minimum age for legal drinking is 19 years old. While drinking in public is allowed, engaging in disruptive behavior while under the influence can lead to expensive fines and a visit with law enforcement.

Why is drinking so normalized in Korea?

In Korean culture, drinking is seen as a way to strengthen social bonds and build closer relationships. Both personal and professional relationships can benefit from sharing a few drinks together, according to Korean beliefs.

Why do Korean sleep on the floor?

The tradition of sleeping on the floor in Korea became popular after the introduction of ondol floor heating, which relied on the smoke from fireplaces to warm up homes from beneath the flooring. Before the advent of HVAC systems, families had to find alternative ways to stay comfortable in their homes.

Why do Koreans have good skin?

For generations, Koreans have relied on natural, gentle ingredients for their skincare routines. These include green tea, snail slime, bamboo extracts, propolis, and honey, which have been passed down through ancient traditions.

One factor that has contributed to the popularity of drinking in Korea is the affordability and accessibility of alcohol. Soju, in particular, is widely available and relatively inexpensive, making it a popular choice for many Koreans. However, there are concerns that the low cost of alcohol may contribute to excessive drinking and alcoholism.

In recent years, there has been a growing trend toward craft and artisanal drinks in Korea. This includes locally brewed beers, high-end wines, and unique spirits. While these drinks are often more expensive than traditional options like soju or makgeolli, they offer a different experience and appeal to a more sophisticated palate.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also had an impact on drinking culture in Korea. With social distancing measures in place, many bars and restaurants have had to close or limit their capacity. This has led to an increase in at-home drinking, with many Koreans opting to purchase alcohol from convenience stores or online retailers.

Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic and ongoing concerns about alcoholism, drinking remains an important part of Korean culture. Whether enjoying a few drinks with friends or sharing a bottle of soju over a meal, Koreans continue to find ways to incorporate alcohol into their daily lives while also recognizing the importance of responsible consumption.

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