Many Koreans are first introduced to alcohol at university, where they often pick up unhealthy drinking habits from an aggressive culture where novices are practically forced to keep up the pace.
In a survey of 4,061 university students by the Korean Alcohol Research Foundation in 2010, 71 percent said they drink more than five shots of soju in one sitting, which is defined as binge drinking by the World Health Organization. That means as many as seven out of 10 Korean university students are binge drinkers. Assuming there are 3 million university students in Korea, 2.13 million are binge drinkers.
The Chosun Ilbo carried out its own straw poll of 314 students at six universities in Seoul on Monday. Nine out of 10, or 89 percent, thought the standard of binge drinking ought to be two or three times more generous than the WHO's. Some 33 percent said binge drinking only starts from two bottles of soju, and 56 percent from three bottles.
Drinking among youngsters has become a serious issue that cannot be just disregarded as a problem of just a handful of troubled youths. According to a study by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20.6 percent of middle or high school students nationwide have had at least one glass of alcohol in the last month, and 39.8 percent have "problematic drinking" habits that lead to fights.