Home Style South Korea, Asia’s binge-drinking capital, considers alcohol ban on campuses

South Korea, Asia’s binge-drinking capital, considers alcohol ban on campuses


South Korea has in recent years tried to curb its infamous binge-drinking culture, which often begins in college and continues once in the workplace. But the health ministry’s latest proposal to ban alcohol consumption on college campuses and link the move to a lower risk of Alzheimer’s Disease has some people puzzled.

The Health and Welfare Ministry said this week it will ask parliament to consider a bill that includes a host of measures it says will help prevent dementia, which it expects to surge 77% through 2024 from last year among senior citizens.

The list includes encouraging seniors’ social activities, campaigning for more physical exercise and developing programmes to fight high blood-pressure and diabetes.

But most attention is on its proposal to make it illegal to sell and consume alcohol in public spaces, including parks and throughout college campuses. The ministry said that developing a healthy drinking habit early in adulthood is an important step towards a healthy life.

There are also plans to place strict limits on when and where alcoholic beverages can be advertised, but the proposals are likely to face staunch opposition from some citizens and alcohol producers, who helped block a similar proposal in 2012.

South Koreans are among the heaviest drinkers in the world and No. 1 in Asia, according to the World Health Organization. It isn’t uncommon to encounter people drinking in the streets of Seoul and sleeping in public spaces after lengthy boozing sessions. Those without a direct experience of the culture recently got a glimpse in Psy’s latest music video “Hangover,” featuring copious consumption of beer and local spirit, soju.

A ministry official told a popular evening radio news programme on Tuesday that its research showed a direct correlation between alcohol and heightened risks of dementia. The official added that universities were places that promote “freedom to pursue knowledge” and should be protected from alcohol-driven distractions.

Some Twitter users said the health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption were proven but slammed the ministry’s linking of dementia and to dry campuses.

A separate official told Korea Real Time that universities will be consulted by parliament. Should the bill pass, institutions may apply for exceptions for special events. (WSJ)

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