Public drinking ban necessaryThe Ministry of Health and Welfare will re-pursue a ban on drinking and sales of alcohol in public places through a revised bill on the Public Health Promotion Act. It will announce the bill within the month and submit it to the National Assembly. If the law passes, drinking will be prohibited in public open places like beaches and parks as well as youth facilities and hospitals.
Though sad to admit, Koreans have become notorious for their wild drinking habits. Resorts, public parks and hospital emergency rooms, which must offer safety and peace, often run into mayhem caused by heavy drinkers. With that in mind, forbidding drinking in public places is necessary for health and safety.
According to police statistics, drinking has been directly or indirectly blamed for 37.9 percent of murders, 38.5 percent of rapes and 35.5 percent of domestic violence. Alcohol can cause disorder and violence because it limits brain control over impulsive behavior. The social costs of drinking-related violence are huge.
In September 2012, the ministry previously dropped the bill after running into disagreements among government offices and opposition from universities. It tweaked the clause that affects campus drinking, allowing alcohol sales and consumption during university festivals for up to 10 days with permission from the head of the school. The compromise underscores the ministry’s determination to curb drinking in public places through cooperation and understanding from society.
However, a ban alone cannot help fight Korea’s bad habit. Our drinking culture also must change. The ministry should work closely with other government offices - including the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Ministry of Education - as well as civilian organizations, health associations and universities to come up with various campaigns and designs to encourage Koreans to drink less along with administrative action.
On an individual and group level, citizens must find ways for entertainment and relief without the help of alcohol. The government should also campaign to persuade the public amid criticism that the ban amounts to an excessive regulation on people’s lives.
JoongAng Ilbo, June 13, Page 30