Binge drinking goes too farKorea is infamous for its leniency toward drinking. But the unprecedented drinking - and sexual violence - on the campus of the Military Academy is astounding. Cadets are traditionally prohibited from drinking, smoking and getting married. But when it comes to drinking, it is allowed under the supervision of professors, officers in charge of discipline and other high-ranking officers within limits - as long as it doesn’t dishonor the integrity and pride of the cadets.
However, we are dumbfounded by the fact that some cadets heavily drank boilermakers, or “poktanju” in Korea, and even sexually assaulted a female in broad daylight during a school festival. That defames the long-cherished honor and pride of the academy.
More worrisome is the widespread binge drinking culture among the young generation, college students in particular. University campuses have a long tradition of senior students offering various kinds of alcoholic beverage to freshmen during their orientation. And almost every meeting begins - and ends - with drinking. As a result, a number of accidents, including deaths from over-drinking, have routinely occurred in the early stage of a semester and during festival periods. That’s a shameful portrait of our society’s misguided drinking culture, which often costs the precious lives of the young generation.
Henry Wechsler, a professor at the School of Public Health at Harvard University and a leading investigator of drinking culture in U.S. colleges, categorized those who had drank more than five glasses of liquor in one place over the last two weeks as “heavy drinker.” When we apply the standards to Korea, a whopping 65 percent of our college students fit into the category. They will likely be involved in alcohol-related problems such as physical violence, sexual abuse and drunk driving.
To put an end to the chronic malaise of binge drinking, colleges must kick off a campaign to reduce their unfettered consumption of alcoholic drinks. Gachon University, for instance, declared a “No drinking, No smoking” policy for its student body last year before completely banning drinking and taking alcoholic beverages onto the campus from this year. Seoul National University and Dongguk University also conducted orientations for freshmen without alcoholic drinks after Yonsei University enforced a “no alcohol” policy on its Wonju campus.
University authorities must proactively follow in their footsteps to help their students learn how to restrain from over-drinking. At the same time, the Ministry of Health and Welfare and the Ministry of Education must support universities in spreading the sober culture throughout campuses across the country. That’s a prerequisite for a healthy and mature society.