Extra! Korea

April 1, 2009


Filed under: drinking — extrakorea @ 11:45 am

One good thing about the Chosun Ilbo newspaper is that sometimes, at the end of a new story, they’ll post titles, and links to, older-but-related stories.

Some 5 million Koreans between the age 18 to 65 were alcoholics according to 2001 figures by the Ministry of Health and Welfare. That was a massive 15.9 percent of the entire population, or 25.2 percent of men and 6.3 percent of women.

[ snip ]

According to a survey by the Samsung Economics Research Institute in 2004, as many as 23 percent of 4,231 office workers were alcoholics — men accounting for 23.7 percent and women for 14.7 percent respectively.


I remember when this story first came out in the newspapers. Even though it was basically saying that one out of four Korean men is an alcoholic, none of the expatriates at my school were surprised by this statistic. We were surprised by the fact that it was printed in an English-language newspaper.

A woman in her 30s in Gwangju recently died while on a so-called booze diet. She was under extreme pressure to lose weight, and after 10 days of only drinking alcohol for dinner while skipping breakfast and lunch, her system packed up.

Those on a liquor diet drink alcohol to lose weight, skipping breakfast and lunch and eating only side dishes with a drink for dinner. Some then throw up to ruin their appetite for the next morning. The method may appeal to those who want to lose weight fast, but it is perilous. “It’s such a dreadful way to lose weight,” says Prof. Cho Kyung-hwan of the Department of Family Medicine at Korea University’s Anam Hospital. “It should never be recommended, and no one should listen when it is.”


Very sad. Korean women are even more concerned about being thin than their western counterparts. Anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders, which used to not exist in Korea, are on the rise. A female, expatriate teacher at my school told me that the women’s bathrooms sometimes smell of vomit.

Many heavy drinkers enjoy talking about their “heroic” exploits while drunk, blackouts included. They consider such incidents nothing to be concerned about and just laugh about them. However, blackouts are a signal from your body that serious damage is being done to your brain. They indicate that you are a patient with an advanced alcohol problem and may be gearing up for alcoholic dementia. “When you drink, alcohol spreads throughout your body via the blood stream, and the brain, where much of the blood supply is concentrated, suffers the biggest damage,” says Prof. Namkoong Kee of Severance Hospital’s Department of Psychiatry. “It recovers at first, but repeated blackouts can do permanent damage to the brain, just as springs get less elastic over time.” Your short term memory still works while you suffer a blackout, and you can drive and even have sex under the condition. But the memories are not stored in your long-term memory. It is like working hard on a report on the computer but forgetting to click “save.”

Repeated blackouts bring about structural changes to the brain. With full-blown alcoholic dementia, the brain shrinks and the cerebral ventricle, an empty space in the middle of the brain, gets larger. Blackouts take place more frequently in proportion to the amount of alcohol you drink and how quickly you do it. Drinking a bottle of soju or traditional Korean distilled liquor in 30 minutes is more dangerous than drinking two over four hours.


In Korea, not remembering what happened last night because of excessive alcohol consumption is referred to as “your film being edited.” As the article alludes to, it’s basically laughed off and not taken seriously.

Alcohol is more harmful to teenagers than marijuana, a study suggests. Prof. Susan Tapert at the University of California, San Diego, said Thursday teenagers who report heavy alcohol use have reduced hippocampal volume compared with their nondrinking peers.

The teenagers classified as heavy drinkers consumed more than 20 glasses of alcohol a month. The study showed teenagers who were heavy drinkers for just one to two years developed abnormalities in their brains. The researchers said heavily drinking teenagers had just 85 percent the memory capacity of people who are not heavy drinkers.


I wish that all of my 18-year-old freshmen students would be made aware of this information before they start on their soju binges.


  1. […] Alcoholism ? Extra! Korea By extrakorea Even though it was basically saying that one out of four Korean men is an alcoholic, none of the expatriates at my school were surprised by this statistic. We were surprised by the fact that it was printed in an English-language … Extra! Korea – https://extrakorea.wordpress.com/ […]

    Pingback by Alcoholic Behavior Mary Tyler Moore Opens Up Alcoholism - Starpulse Entertainment ..= . « — April 1, 2009 @ 7:11 pm

  2. Anyway Alcohol is one of the main problems in the world.

    Comment by Mariar — April 10, 2009 @ 2:09 am

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