Almost 6 million Korean adults consume alcohol every day, according to estimates by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is backed up by statistics from the Korea Alcohol and Liquor Industry Association, which show that 9.52 million bottles of beer and 8.96 million bottles of soju are consumed on a daily basis.
Korea's notoriously heavy drinking culture has caused a raft of social problems. Some 359,542 cases of violence committed while under the influence of alcohol were reported in 2010. Police precincts across the nation report that dealing with drunks accounts for just over one-quarter of their workload on a daily basis.
The estimated cost of dealing with drunks in terms of the police force's time and resources now stands at a whopping W50 billion (US$1=W1,177) a year. Moreover, habitual or binge drinking poses a threat to social stability and safety as most murders, thefts and sexual assaults occur between the prime drinking hours of 10 p.m. and 4 a.m.
The situation has now become so ingrained in Korean culture that many people see it as acceptable to turn up for work reeking of booze after a heavy night out. It is also commonplace to students and salarymen intoxicated to the point of being incapable of looking after themselves.
"No county is as tolerant of such a heavy drinking culture and related problems as Korea," said Lee Soo-jung, a criminal psychology professor at Kyonggi University in Seoul. "Compared to other countries, where strict regulations are applied to curtail alcohol-fueled bad behavior, Korea does not have such strict laws and tends to treat such matters very lightly."