Korean Culture and Under-Age Drinking

In an article entitled “Protecting Youth from ‘Culture of Drinking’”, author Steve Han addresses the issue of the cultural norm of under-age drinking for Korean youth. Drinking alcohol is valued, celebrated, and considered a key part of socializing and enjoyment with friends and family in Korean culture. As Han writes, “For an ethnic community known to stigmatize issues ranging from mental health to cancer, there seems to be a remarkably casual attitude and permissiveness toward exposing young people to this culture of drinking, even excessive drinking.” The author himself recalls being offered his first sip of alcohol at age ten and, since it was his father that offered it to him, he viewed this as his rite of passage into manhood. Furthermore, many Korean parents do not do not see the harm in allowing their under-age children to drink. As one father stated, “To be honest, I wouldn’t mind if my son is having a few drinks with his friends, unless he overdoes it. As long as it’s not to a point where he’s hurting himself or people around him, it wouldn’t be a huge concern to me. It’s not as serious as doing drugs, in my opinion.” Many Korean parents share this same view and even Korean owned liquor stores have been caught selling alcohol to under-age minors knowingly. While Korean families may not see the harm in providing their minors with alcohol, studies have shown that the younger a child is when he or she begins drinking, the higher the likelihood is that he or she will escalate to more powerful illegal drugs. Action needs to be taken to educate Korean families on the negative effects that alcohol can have on their children’s developing brains and their conceptions of appropriate alcohol consumption. Unless the cultural norm of under-age drinking in Korean culture is adjusted, this problem will only continue to worsen. Koreans need to come to terms with this very serious problem and deal with it collectively as a community and a culture, if they ever hope to improve it.



4 thoughts on “Korean Culture and Under-Age Drinking

  1. This post is very interesting. It is definitely different from our society which fiercely enforces a drinking age. Even after you are at the appropriate age in America, drinking is still highly stigmatized. Personally, I thought that the original poster was not looking at the article from an anthropological perspective. The reason why is because of how he was judging the Korean culture for allowing their children to drink at an earlier age instead of understanding it. The original poster’s perspective seems to be coming from purely their opinion on under-aged drinking. In America there are still millions of people who suffer from alcoholism, yet are drinking laws are heavily enforced. This blog helped me to understand the real world applications of anthropological methods because the original poster read the article and attempted to view drinking the way that Koreans view it. What the original poster failed to do was attempt to see it from the perspective of a Korean who grew up in this drinking culture. Arguably, this is not entirely the original poster’s fault due to the fact the they are reading an article and not actually experiencing the culture first hand.

  2. This post was an interesting read. I did not know that this was allowed in the Korean Culture to allow underage drinking and what i found really interesting was how their child’s performance in school would rise. As to our society underage drinking is shamed and frowned upon. This then leads to more children wanting to drink and causing more trouble growing up. Then an increase of sudden alcoholism. By you showing some positivity in drinking at a younger age it applies to the real world anthropological methods. The other article failed to show that and you cleared that all up on this post.

  3. As the two others have mentioned, this blog post was a very interesting read. I was not aware of the Korean drinking culture and am actually surprised to hear that they drink at such a young age. For one who is in favor of lowering the drinking age in the United States, I do believe that drinking as young as the Koreans do is dangerous and harmful as you mentioned in your post. There is data that will reveal that drinking at such a young age can damage the brain and there is reasoning behind the drinking age being 21 in the U.S. At the age of 21, the body and brain has fully developed. That being said, I think that the drinking culture today has been badly affected by the drinking age being 21 instead of younger. Drinking has gone underground, especially at college, and people are very irresponsible with their alcohol. There are a lot of people that are ending up in the hospital and getting their stomach pumped and alcohol poisoning because they don’t know how to drink responsibly. If kids were able to drink at a younger age legally within their own home or another controlled environment, they would be more responsible with their alcohol. The argument I always end up at when it comes to lowering the drinking age is that there are kids who are overseas dying for our country, but they are not even legally allowed to have a beer. A lot of what we know is given to us by our main educators, our parents, and we learn most things when we are young. If we learned how to be responsible with alcohol from our parents and at a slightly younger age, I firmly believe that hospital visits on the basis of alcohol and irresponsible drinking would go down. If we learned to drink alcohol before we went off to college, we would be better suited for the environment college brings to the table. Of course there are going to be exceptions and people are still going to be irresponsible, but I don’t think it is a bad idea to implement some of Koreas drinking culture into out own culture here in the U.S.

  4. I also found this post to be interesting as the cultural norm in Korea regarding their drinking culture is so different than ours. Here in the United States it’s generally looked down upon if parents allow their children to drink before the legal age. On the other hand, in Korea, it is valued and respected, but there are cases where underage drinking can cross a line. This is where anthropology and cultural relativism come into play. Although alcohol can have negative impacts on under aged individuals, there are reasons why this is a part of Korea’s culture if you can understand their perspective instead of simply comparing it to our own standards. As the post explains, parents say they wouldn’t agree with children drinking to the point where it became dangerous. In this sense, one can see that allowing younger individuals to drink in Korea gives them a sense of responsibility. By allowing these young men and women to drink, they’re forced to become accountable for their own actions. Therefore, if you don’t embody this responsibility and self-control, then there will be cultural consequences. Overall, the drinking culture is a rite of passage.

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