Drinking culture _ root cause of violence
By Kim Bo-eun
Preventing drunken violence is a tough challenge because it is rooted in Korea’s drinking culture, a deeply rooted social problem that can result in criminal behavior.
The cases of reported drunken violence topped 360,000 in 2010, according to police. Moreover, 37.1 percent of murders and 30.6 percent of sex crimes were committed under the influence of alcohol in 2011.
Experts say the root causes of binge drinking and violence are embedded in Korea’s heavy drinking culture.
A survey conducted by the Korean Alcohol Research Foundation among 4,061 college students in 2010 showed that seven out of 10 students usually drink at least five glasses of soju at social gatherings. According to the World Health Organization’s standards, this amounts to heavy drinking.
Due to social attitudes that condone heavy drinking, intoxication is a common root cause of serious crimes. “The drinking culture has a tendency to condone inappropriate behavior while under the influence, and this leads to increased drunken violence,” said Chang Ki-hwun, a researcher at the foundation.
“The current system of penalties leaves many loopholes for crimes committed by the physically and mentally unstable,” he said.
Offenses carried out while intoxicated are often dismissed with simple warnings, since the legal system reduces punishments for crimes committed when people are drunk.
Among drunken offenders that habitually cause violence are those who struggle with alcohol addiction. They are aware that they will recommit offenses when they drink but are unable to control their drinking behavior.
“These are individuals who need to get help to correct their habits,” said Chang.
And since they do not admit that they have drinking problems, they also refuse to receive any sort of treatment.
“Imprisonment or short-term education sessions are not long-term solutions for the problem,” he said. “Punishment needs to go along with rehabilitation.”