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Why do South Koreans drink so much?


South Korea has one of the heaviest drinking cultures in the world, with alcohol being a prominent aspect of their social and business culture. This article aims to explore the reasons behind this phenomenon.

History of Alcohol in Korea

Alcohol has been a part of Korean culture for centuries, with traditional rice wines being widely consumed. Drinking has also been a way of bonding and socializing, with communal drinking practices such as ‘hweshik’ being common.

Stress and Pressure

South Korea is known for its high-stress work and education culture, with long working hours and academic pressures. Many Koreans turn to alcohol as a way to relieve stress and escape from the pressures of daily life.

Social Expectations

Drinking is often seen as a way to build relationships and network in South Korean society, with many business deals being sealed over drinks. Refusing a drink can be seen as rude or disrespectful in certain situations.

Influence of Media

South Korean media often portrays drinking as a glamorous and desirable activity, with popular TV shows and movies featuring characters frequently drinking.

Easy Access to Alcohol

Alcohol is readily available in South Korea, with convenience stores and bars open late into the night. The low price of alcohol also makes it an easy choice for many.

Cultural Norms

Drinking is deeply ingrained in South Korean culture, with traditional beliefs suggesting that it purifies the body and brings people together. This cultural norm means that drinking is often seen as acceptable or even expected.

Peer Pressure

In social situations, there can be pressure to keep up with others when it comes to drinking. This can lead to excessive drinking and even binge drinking.

Alcoholism and Addiction

The heavy drinking culture in South Korea has led to high rates of alcoholism and addiction. The government has implemented measures to combat this issue, including stricter laws on drunk driving and alcohol sales.

Cultural Changes

Despite the deep-rooted drinking culture, younger generations in South Korea are increasingly turning away from excessive drinking. This shift in cultural attitudes towards alcohol is reflected in changing laws and social norms.

Alternative Ways to Socialize

As attitudes towards drinking change, alternative ways of socializing are becoming more popular. Activities such as coffee shops, board game cafes, and fitness classes are gaining popularity among younger Koreans.


South Korea’s heavy drinking culture is a complex issue with a long history. While there are many factors contributing to this phenomenon, it is clear that attitudes towards alcohol are changing in the country. By understanding the reasons behind the drinking culture, steps can be taken to promote healthier and more responsible drinking practices.

Why is drinking so normalized in Korea?

In Korean culture, drinking is seen as a way to bond with others and build stronger friendships, both in personal and professional settings. It is believed that sharing drinks can bring people closer together.

Why do Korean like to drink alcohol?

In South Korea, alcohol is believed to be helpful in building and strengthening personal and business relationships. The culture of work in Korea is characterized by the practice of hoesik, which is a work dinner where colleagues eat and drink together.

Why Koreans are the largest drinkers in Asia?

South Korea is known for its high alcohol consumption, with a per capita rate that surpasses any other country. This is largely due to the popularity of Soju, a traditional fermented rice drink in the region.

Is there a big drinking culture in Korea?

Koreans have a long-standing tradition of drinking alcohol to mark important holidays and events, such as New Year, Rice Planting, and Day of Thanks. This practice has been around for centuries and involves respecting ancestors and elders through specific rituals. It can be traced back to pre-1000 AD, when outside influences introduced alcohol to the region.

Are Koreans the heaviest drinkers?

According to a recent study, South Koreans consume an average of 13.7 shots of alcohol per week, which is higher than Russians who consume 6.3 shots per week and Americans who consume 3.3 shots per week.

Is it true that Koreans drink a lot?

The Republic of Korea has a per capita alcohol consumption of 16L, as reported by WHO in 2018. Their drinking culture involves taking one shot at a time rather than sipping slowly.

Gender Differences in Drinking Culture

There are also notable gender differences in South Korea’s drinking culture. While men are more likely to engage in heavy drinking and binge drinking, women are often expected to abstain from alcohol altogether. However, recent years have seen a shift towards more gender equality in drinking practices, with more women choosing to drink socially.

Health Concerns

Excessive drinking can lead to a range of health problems, including liver disease, heart disease, and cancer. The heavy drinking culture in South Korea has led to high rates of alcohol-related illnesses and deaths. As attitudes towards alcohol continue to shift, there is a growing awareness of the importance of responsible drinking practices for maintaining good health.

Alcohol-Free Alternatives

As more people look for alternatives to heavy drinking for socializing, there has been a rise in popularity of alcohol-free options. Non-alcoholic beers, wines, and cocktails are becoming more widely available in bars and restaurants. Additionally, activities such as karaoke and gaming cafes offer fun alternatives to traditional drinking culture.

Government Response

The South Korean government has recognized the negative effects of the country’s heavy drinking culture and has taken steps to address the issue. In addition to implementing stricter laws on drunk driving and alcohol sales, the government has launched campaigns to promote responsible drinking practices and encourage alternatives to excessive alcohol consumption.

The Future of Drinking Culture in South Korea

While it is clear that attitudes towards alcohol are changing in South Korea, it remains to be seen how much of an impact this will have on the country’s drinking culture in the long term. As younger generations continue to push for a more balanced approach to alcohol consumption, it is possible that we will see a shift away from the heavy drinking culture that has long been associated with South Korea.

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