Drinking in public places to be banned in S. Korea

January 14, 2015
Office workers raise their glasses at their year-end party in a pub in Seoul in this file photo. During the year-end festive season, people tend to drink more than usual. (Korea Times)

Office workers raise their glasses at their year-end party in a pub in Seoul in this file photo. During the year-end festive season, people tend to drink more than usual. (Korea Times file)

By Kim Rahn

South Korean health authorities plan to ban the drinking of alcohol in public places, such as parks and campuses.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare said on Wednesday it would make an announcement around March to help curb the nation’s drinking rates.

“We want to ban drinking and selling alcohol at public places,” a ministry official said. “Some expected the government would raise the price of alcohol, but we chose an anti-drinking measure that does not require a price hike.”

It is not the first time the ministry has tried to ban drinking in public . It tried to introduce a range of health promotion measures in 2012, but various ministries failed to narrow their differences on the issue.

Under the new plan, alcohol drinking and sales will be prohibited in public places that local governments designate by ordinances, such as parks and beaches.

“In case of Gangneung in Gangwon Province, the city government designated its Gyeongpodae Beach as a non-drinking area through its own ordinances in 2012,” the official said. “But citizens and visitors protested, claiming the nationally applied law did not ban drinking at beaches. So the city lifted the ban the next year.”

Drinking and selling alcohol will not be allowed at schools ranging from elementary schools to colleges.

“But we are discussing whether to have college presidents allow drinking on campuses at specific times during the year, such as during festivals,” the official said.

The revision will also ban advertisements of alcohol on subways, at bus stops and on outdoor billboards.

“We can’t delay anti-drinking measures anymore, as drinking has caused considerable damage to the nation,” he said. “The social costs stemming from drinking, such as damage to health, is 23 trillion won annually.”

The ministry estimates that about 1.6 million people in Korea are alcoholics.


  1. Dirty Seagull

    January 14, 2015 at 11:11 PM

    My word. I never knew drinking was so bad in Korea

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  4. Stefanie

    January 15, 2015 at 6:56 PM

    Only 1.6 million Koreans?! The number is way higher.

    This is also the first time I’ve ever heard alcohol called a social problem here in Korea. It is basically considered a norm.

    • Gabriel

      January 17, 2015 at 11:02 PM

      The definition of alcoholism is pretty nebulous. If you take AA’s standard basically every non-teetotal adult is an alcy.

  5. Tony

    January 15, 2015 at 7:24 PM

    living here for 18 months, I see a South Korea that spends 25% of their take-home pay on extra tutoring for their children. I see 56 Million South Koreans working so hard the ROK is the world’s 15th largest economy. If they want to drink less, fine, but these people have their act together in my opinion. What I do not see is a diet full of fried fat, or rampant obesity, and heart disease.

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  8. Eric Kruse

    January 15, 2016 at 6:41 PM

    I lived in Korea for 15 years. It’s not alcoholism that is the issue. It’s the binge-drink-until-you-puke-or-pass-out-anywhere mentality that is the problem. While it was changing some by the time I left, the whole, “if the boss drinks, you drink” requirement was a big problem with a lot of my Korean friends, especially those who had to drive home. I enjoyed my time in Korea, but I drink a third as much since I left. You must be strong in your sobriety to live there and not drink.

  9. David Hart

    January 16, 2016 at 1:23 AM

    Why the picture of the restaurant to go with this story? Restaurants, from what the story says, will not be affected in any way, only public places that are designated by “local governments” as such, like parks and beaches. Misleading to place a picture of a restaurant when talking about restricting areas of drinking.