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Day of Abstinence from Drinking

Posted March. 17, 2005 22:57,   


Moderate drinking improves the appetite and releases stress. Doctors say the appropriate amount of alcohol that won’t harm one’s health differs according to age, health status, and frequency of drinking. However, they recommend two to three units of alcohol per day regardless of liquor types. Drinking more than four units is risky. Nevertheless, Korea’s typical heavy drinking culture makes it easy to ignore such advice. In Korea, it is the norm that one be forced to drink, cups of liquor have to be passed around so that no one is left out of the drinking, people mix liquors into cocktails to get people more inebriated, and people move on to a different bar, night club or hotel late into the night. If one seems to drink little, at most gatherings everyone around will be critical, saying, “You are dampening the good mood.”

Reckless drinking harms not only one’s own health, but also those surrounding the drinker like family members and colleagues. In addition, social costs due to alcohol-related accidents, crimes, medical expenses, and shortage of labor are enormous. Last year, according to the Samsung Economic Research Institute, socio-economic costs resulting from drinking alcohol in Korea amounted to as much as 14.5 trillion won. In addition, it is embarrassing to hear that Korea ranked first among 30 other OECD countries in terms of per-capita alcohol consumption as of 2002.

Would it be any comfort that such a boozy drinking culture is not unique to Korea? In the case of Britain these days, even college students have embraced the boozy culture on campus, and it is said that behind this are active marketing of liquor companies, and the ignorance of school authorities. Prime Minister Tony Blair calls this “the new British disease,” and is struggling to find an appropriate solution, according to the Independent’s online edition on March 17.

The Seoul Metropolitan government and National Campaign for Abstinence from Drinking designated every Monday as “Day of Abstinence from Drinking.” It is aimed at turning the current drinking culture into a more wholesome one. Recently, as more and more people stop smoking, there is less ground for smokers to stand on. Various anti-smoking policies such as raising cigarette prices seem finally to be taking effect. If that is the case, wouldn’t abstinence for drinking also be possible? We are not asking for non-drinking, like “anti-smoking” measures, but for gradual decrease in intake. From now on, why not drink “One cup for health, two for joy, and no more?” (It is the campaign’s slogan.)

Song Young-eon, Editorial writer, youngeon@donga.com