Koreans Drink Most in Asia

  • By Hong Jun-ki

    October 05, 2018 14:01

    Korea tops the list of Asian countries in terms of per-capita alcohol consumption and one in 10 Korean men die from alcohol related causes.

    According to the World Health Organization's latest status report on alcohol and health, each Korean consumed 10.2 liters of pure alcohol a year on average between 2015 and 2017.

    Men drank 16.7 liters of alcohol, more than four times the 3.9 liters women consumed. That is equivalent to 273 bottles of 360 ml soju with a 17 percent alcohol content or 668 cans of 500 ml beer with five percent alcohol. That means each Korean man drank five bottles of soju or 13 cans of beer a week, a figure that looks more alarming considering that it is an average including people who never drink at all.

    Laos at 10.4 liters is the only country in Asia that consumed more alcohol every year than Korea. Japan with a comparatively abstemious 8 liters came next, followed China with 7.2 liters. 

    But in the rest of the world, Lithuanians drank even harder with 15 liters, followed by Nigeria (13.4 liters), France (12.6 liters), and Australia (10.6 liters). Americans drank slightly less than Koreans at 9.8 liters.

    Yet Korea's per capita alcohol consumption has been dwindling since it peaked in the 1970s, while China's has consistently increased.

    About 7.6 percent of all deaths in Korea were from alcohol abuse in 2016, compared to the world's average of 5.3 percent. Some 11.8 percent of men died alcohol-related deaths, far higher than women (2.6 percent).

    Alcohol consumption increases the risk of cirrhosis of the liver, cancer and traffic-related deaths. Alcohol was blamed for 74.5 percent of deaths of cirrhosis of the liver, 38.5 percent of car accidents and 8.3 percent of cancer.

    Probably due to its lenient drunk-driving law, Korea's proportion of drunk-driving-related deaths at 38.5 percent is higher than China's 35.1 percent and Japan's 32.7 percent.

    The government is considering lowering the legal limit of blood alcohol from 0.05 percent to 0.03 percent.

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