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Management Report

Management reports, briefs issued by Samsung Economic Research Institute

Drinking Behavior of Korean Office Workers

Drinking Behavior of Korean Office Workers

EOM Dong-Wook

Sept. 25, 2004

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Alcohol consumption in Korea has continuously grown since the Asian financial crisis, increasing alcohol-related diseases, and social and work-related issues. At the root of the problem is Korean society's overly lenient attitude towards alcohol-induced misbehavior. This prevailing atmosphere discourages people from criticizing the overindulgence in alcohol. During the process of modernization and rapid growth, the traditional drinking culture that placed emphasis on social-bonding and etiquette has gradually been replaced by a drinking culture defined by excessive consumption. This is made clear by the popularity of such drinks as boilermakers (cocktails made up of various strong liquors), excessive social pressure to drink, and the practice of extending business transactions to after-work drinks. Further adding to the problem is the 2% increase in alcohol production and 7% rise in imports in the first half of 2004 over last year. This culture has caused foreigners to view Koreans as aggressive and self-negligent when it comes to consuming alcohol.

Alcohol-related diseases and crimes have now reached an alarming level. The number of cases of alcohol-induced liver disease is rising rapidly, and it has become the number two cause of death for people in their 40s. People with other disorders related to excessive drinking reached 2.2 million as of 2001.

Further concerns extend to the social costs involved, as crime and accidents are on the rise due to excessive consumption. Cases of drinking while under the influence of alcohol (DUI) have continued to climb upwards.

In 2000, the economic and social cost of drinking was approximately 14.5 trillion won, or 2.8% of GDP. Research suggests that office workers frequently tend to drink more alcohol - 1.4 times more - compared to average people. These findings imply huge losses in productivity, yet companies seem to be passive in addressing this issue.


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