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`Kitchen alcoholic`

Posted December. 28, 2010 11:03,   


The main character of “Rude Miss Young-ae,” a popular TV series on the cable channel tvN, is a fat and single 30-something lady. She is the exact opposite of the typical “beautiful and kind” female character. Though failing to date a man every time, she punishes guys who expose their genitals at girls’ schools or sexually harass women on buses. Though she pledges not to drink alcohol again, she eventually gets drunk and blacks out. This is a typical symptom of alcoholics.

According to last year’s National Health and Nutrition Study, 75.8 percent of Korean men and 43.4 percent of women age 19 or older drink alcohol. Since women also drink, they can also fall victim to alcoholism. Women who drink alone at home after their husbands go to work and children to school are called “kitchen alcoholics.” Since female alcoholics generally do not stand out, no accurate statistics about them exist. The domestic medical community estimates around 600,000 of such alcoholics, however. The percentage of alcoholics among working women as well as housewives is also soaring.

Suh Myung-sook, a former journalist who founded Jeju Olle, wrote “Once Upon a Time in Female Smoking,” a book about her 27 years of smoking at a time when the notion in Korea was widespread that a woman smoker was easy. She said kicking the habit was tough because she had to hide her smoking. This applies to female alcoholics as well. Because of social prejudice on how much a woman should drink, a female alcoholic tends to hide her addiction to booze and does not seek help. Solving a problem is possible when visible, but the problem of female alcoholism is tougher because of its secretive nature.

Women are generally considered to have a lower tolerance for drinking than men, with exceptions. Since women have more fat than water in the body compared to men and lack the ability to dissolve alcohol, they get drunk more easily. Consistent drinking by women increases the prevalence of hyper-menorrhea, amenorrhea and breast cancer. The rise in drunk driving by women is rising three times faster than that of men. Since alcohol passes the placenta faster than any other element, drinking by a pregnant woman can be fatal to the fetus. Alcoholism often has a negative impact on childrearing and could lead to disintegration of a family. The first task in stopping alcoholism is to remove alcoholic beverages hidden in closets or cupboards.

Editorial Writer Chung Sung-hee (shchung@donga.com)