[EDITORIALS]A Nation of BoozersA recent piece of international news has irritated Koreans' pride. The report said that Korean people consume significant amounts of whiskey and that the culture of drinking boilermakers here triggers the consumption of Western liquors in Korea. Reading another news item that said global liquor makers are concentrating on developing new products specifically targeted to the Korean market makes us wonder if our drinking culture serves as a dupe for the world's liquor industry.
Citing the data provided by the Scotch Whisky Association, the BBC reported that shipments to South Korea grew by 40 percent in volume - the equivalent of 6.4 million bottles - in the first half of this year over the same period last year. The figure is at least three times higher than the average growth rate around the world. Statistics provided by the domestic liquor industry also support such a hike. Including imported liquors from the Western countries, the sales of whiskey this year likely will exceed 1.2 trillion won ($923 million), marking nearly a 50-percent increase over two years. Consumption of premier whiskey, such as Ballantine's, increased sharply, and the sales of expensive liquors this year will reach 180 billion won. Considering the rise in whiskey consumption, there seems no way for us to clear away this dishonorable title: Korea is the world's fifth largest whiskey importer.
In the past, when the economy was sluggish, the consumption of soju, a traditional Korean liquor made of rice, and beer tended to increase while consumption of whiskey declined. Despite the current global economic slump, Koreans are drinking expensive imported liquors. Indeed, consumption has skyrocketed. Even at casual dinner gatherings people say that they only feel well-treated when a bottle of whiskey sits on the table. Corporate management in Korea is often called "management by alcohol."
Drinking boilermakers is a vestige of the past military regimes. But the leftover custom lingers nonetheless. It is time to make an improvement. As the end of the year approaches, we will probably end up drinking endless boilermakers at parties, and damaging our health. What we need is a skill to make the year-end parties enjoyable without heavy drinking.