The government launched a campaign Monday against South Korea's hard-drinking culture which costs billions of dollars a year in social and economic losses, officials said. The campaign focuses on advertisements on television and elsewhere to enhance public awareness of the dangers of excessive drinking, the Ministry of Health and Welfare said.
"South Koreans consider offering alcohol to others as being generous. More worrisome is quick and excessive drinking," Park No-Man, a ministry official, told AFP. Excessive drinking damages individuals and society in various ways, including serious illnesses, a rise in crime and reduced work efficiency, he said.
The ministry estimated the social and economic costs of alcohol consumption at 20.1 trillion won (21.59 billion dollars) in 2005, he said, without giving a full breakdown of how this figure was reached. About 2.7 trillion won of this was spent to treat illnesses linked to excessive drinking, the ministry said. An earlier study showed that nearly 22,000 people died in 2001 from illnesses related to drinking, 8.7 percent of total deaths that year, with 2.2 million people aged 18 to 64 suffering from alcohol-related disorders, it said.
"Excessive drinking has also caused enormous economic damage, undermining productivity and raising the danger of industrial accidents," Park said. "Koreans consume less alcohol than Europeans but they are well known for drinking as much as possible and as quickly as possible," said Cho Sung-Gie, director of the Korean Alcohol Research Foundation.
In South Korea 90 percent of company outings centre on alcohol, he said. In a landmark case reported in May, the former boss of a South Korean woman was ordered to pay her 30 million won compensation for forcing her to go drinking with the rest of the staff after work.