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Drinking costs give Korea a hangover

Sept 22,2004
Korean companies would do well to look at the country’s drinking culture as a literal stumbling block to greater productivity, according to a recently completed research study.
The Samsung Economic Research Institute, which surveyed on 4,231 salaried men nationwide, reported 80 percent said they attended a drinking party more than once a week.
One in four Korean company workers are now in the early stages of alcoholism, the report said.
A separate body, Yonsei University Graduate School of Public Health, said that the economic and social losses caused by drinking totalled 14.5 trillion won ($12.6 billion) in 2000. That figure is about 2.8 percent of Korea’s gross domestic product. Those polled said they often found themselves drunk, not through their own choice, but because of coercion from others, such as bosses or co-workers.
About 47 percent said they are obligated to drink in order not to offend the group they are in.
About 70 percent of workers said the drinking culture in Korean companies is unhealthy, the institute said.
“Workers’ excessive drinking is not just an individual problem. It affects companies’ productivity and competitiveness, and eventually affects the nation,” the report said.
Scientists say that it takes 12 hours for a body to absorb a bottle of soju, a vodka-like grain spirit, implying that workers who drink a bottle ― a moderate amount, given local drinking customs ― spend half of the following day semi-inebriated.
The survey said there was an urgent need for companies to conduct anti-drinking campaigns.
“Bosses should create an atmosphere that permits a moderate amount of drinking,” suggested Eom Dong-uk, chief researcher at the institute. “There should be special education about health and drinking,” he said.
He said that regulations to prevent heavy drinking are as important as regulations to prevent smoking.


by Choi Sun-young


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