I was shocked when I arrived in South Korea to discovered that cheap beer and hard alcohol was for sale everywhere... all time time. When I arrived, I heard the joke that "Koreans are considered the Irish of Asia." With that said, it does not shock me at all that minors in Korea have no difficult finding alcohol if they want it.
Teenagers can buy alcoholic beverages without difficulty, despite the government’s efforts to prevent underage drinking, a recent survey showed.
As many as 82.5 percent of adolescents questioned replied that they could buy alcohol when they tried to do, according to the results of the online survey on the health of the young conducted in 2010 by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. A report on drinking among Korean teenagers based on the outcome was published in the latest issue of the weekly, Health & Disease, Sunday.
The drinking issue is also serious even for middle school students with 58 percent of first graders and 75.3 percent of third graders replying that they easily bought alcoholic beverages. The rate jumped to 75.3 percent for first graders of high schools and to 89.4 percent to seniors, showing that high school students succeeded in nine out of 10 attempts.
Female students were more successful in buying alcohol than male students at the ratio of 83.6 percent to 81.7 percent. Only second and third graders of male high schools recorded higher rates than females.
Also, among teenage drinkers, 28.3 percent have bought at convenience stores or local supermarkets in residential areas, which means there were few restraints on their access.
In terms of age, 7 percent of first graders of middle school bought alcohol at convenience stores or small shops. The rate increased to 17.1 percent for second graders, 27.5 percent for third graders, and 36.4 percent, 33.8 percent and 28 percent in high school grades, respectively.
And 20.2 percent purchased alcohol at restaurants, soju bang or Korean style pubs, bars or nightclubs, while 19 percent replied that they drank at their friend’s home and 15 percent drank with adults.Of the less than 20% who could not successfully buy alcohol, they probably were just dumb enough to try and do it while wearing their school uniform. I imagine a change of clothes to make yourself look older would be all that is required to get what you want.
There are several big differences between minor drinking in America and minors drinking in South Korea. High school students in America will drink and drive to get home, whereas Korean kids cannot drive. Likewise, America underage drinkers will drink at house parties or places without adult supervision, whereas here in Korea I do not imagine there are many place in the city these kids can hide with their boos without someone (a bartender, a shop owner) at least knowing that they are there.
A lot of American minors who drink also do not have strenuous academic schedules, and can be drunk or hung over a lot without it affecting their official academic responsibilities. Korean high school kids could never do that.
Although the underage drinking rate has been on the decline, peaking in 2005, the “alcohol risk rate” of teenagers has steadily increased to 47.2 percent in 2010. The alcohol risk rate is five small glasses or more for males in one session a month and three or more for females.
Nearly two of 10 minors got drunk on one day or more last month and nearly four out of 10 created problems due to drinking twice or more in the last year, according to the report.
As another eye-catching one, more female students drank harmful amounts at 51.5 percent to 44.4 percent, and made more problems than male students at 40.2 percent to 37.7 percent.
Although these statistics might seem "bad", they probably are still nothing compared to the underage drinking problems in The United States, even though it is much more difficult for a minor to buy alcohol in America.