Korea’s culture of heavy drinking is under attack. First it was the conservative newspaper, Chosun Ilbo that earlier this year published several opinion pieces on public drunkeness. Maybe it was that they tired of seeing drunks lying on the streets early in the mornings. Or maybe they were embarrassed by foreigner blogs, like Black Out Korea, that glorified passed drunks in public in Korea. (I personally like this last site as I get to laugh at drunks without actually having to smell the puke that inevitably accompanies them..) Or maybe they were shamed by a bit of research earlier this year in which Korea was named the 13th Drunkest nation in the world (not even as bad as the storied Irish) and the drunkest nation in Asia.
Whatever the reason, now Korean companies are joining in on the moderation band wagon. Samsung Electronics, has set guidelines for drinking. No, not on the job. Drinking guidelines for hoesiks, the traditional Korean staff dinner. The new guidelines are referred to as 1-1-9, which mean one sitting, one type of alcohol (no more mixing soju and mekju) and a cutoff time of 9pm. No more forcing drinks on co-workers, no more “one shot” demands and no more late night parties.
In the land of a million drunks where some job applicants list their drinking ability as a qualification for employment this is big news. If Samsung limits drinking there’s no guarantee that other companies will follow suit. However, Samsung is one of Korea’s largest employers and is very influential. It is the largest technology company (by revenue) on the planet and largest mobile phone maker, TV and LCD panel manufacturer (by number of units) The party isn’t over yet, but when a few other chaebols begin to implement their own drinking guidelines, it will take a decidedly downward turn.
Now, if we can just get the Chosun Ilbo to write about the horrid driving….
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