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Old 01-13-2004, 10:19 PM
Join Date: May 2001
Location: Houston, TX
Posts: 1,403
South Korean Drinking Age

What's the legal age for purchasing alcohol in South Korea? I've read both 19 and 21 online. What's the Straight Dope. Any input from Dopers in South Korea?
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Old 01-13-2004, 11:49 PM
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: Upstate New York
Posts: 9,335
Originally Posted by Daoloth
What's the legal age for purchasing alcohol in South Korea? I've read both 19 and 21 online. What's the Straight Dope. Any input from Dopers in South Korea?

I'd be curious about the drinking age in North Korea. Just to know, that's all.
Old 01-14-2004, 12:05 AM
Join Date: May 2003
Location: Toronto
Posts: 65
I'm not sure - I'd reckon 19 though. I remember being at a bar with a high school teacher who ran into several students who had just graduated there. I reckon they aren't that bothered regardless of the legal age - hell, I remember doing rounds of soju in a middle school class I taught once. Man, did those kids suck at blackjack when they were on the sauce.
Old 01-14-2004, 12:14 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Brooklyn
Posts: 748
What's the legal age for purchasing alcohol in South Korea?
Every Korean citizen I ask says 20. I tried googling it to make sure, but you're right, the information you get off the internet ranges from 19 to 21.

(Not that you'll typically be carded in Korean establishments, unless they're upscale or cater to foreigners.)
Co mowie na to ja? Konewka.
Old 01-14-2004, 01:01 AM
Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: North Carolina
Posts: 1,999
I haven't been in several years, but I seem to remember as a kid (like 9 or 10) I could run down to the store and buy a six pack of beer. It was obviously understood that it was for my Uncle, but still. Also, in the bars around my town I see signs that say, "Places you can go to drink if you're under 21" and it has various countries, one of which is South Korea. You know, it might even say places with no drinking age. For some reason, I remember there not being one at all. My parents who moved here from there said that there wasn't really one, but younger kids drinking is pretty frowned upon.
Old 01-14-2004, 01:53 AM
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 181
I'm in the ROK right now, and what the drinking age is here depends really on who you ask. If you ask a Korean or the Korean government, they'll say "20" is the legal age. If you ask anyone else, they'll say "19". Both are correct, b/c in Korea -- as well as in China and Japan -- people are officially considered one-year-old at birth. So a 20-year-old (by the Korean calculation), is really a 19-year-old, to westerners.

As a side note, enforcement of the drinking age is a mixed affair here and is at best, uneven. As the previous poster said, minors here can easily buy alcohol at convenience stores and other retail outlets with nary a glance.

However, in popular entertainment and university districts where clubs and beer halls abound, such establishments -- particularly high-end clubs that charge minimum per-table fees of anywhere from $100 or more for the typical Chivas Regal-fruit platter set-up -- have increasingly over the past 10 years been carding young people (anyone in their 20's) at the door.

This is done not b/c such establishments are concerned about complying with the drinking age -- which is rarely if ever enforced -- but b/c they're concerned that very young-looking persons might be high-schoolers planning a dine-and-dash prank before settling the bill, which as I stated, can be $100 or more per table on average for clubs.

I've also found beer halls in the university districts who make it a practive of carding 20somethings, not because they charge a minimum per table fee as do clubs, but apparently b/c of pressure (read: threats) from universities on such establishments to clamp on down on underage drinking, or else....
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