Drunken and violent
Korea must be one of the countries that are the most tolerant of drinking and drunkards, including violent ones, in public spaces. Visit any urban entertainment zone at night, and you’ll find scores of revelers staggering down the streets lined with pubs and bars.
Statistics show the time has long past for the nation to tackle excessive drinking and alcohol-related crimes. In 2010, there were nearly 360,000 reported cases of drink-related violence, alcohol was behind about one- third of most violent crimes, such as rape and murder, and the cost of dealing with drunks totaled at least 500 billion won in terms of the police’s time and resources.
Basically, alcohol in this country is too cheap and readily available. Where else can one get drunk with less than a U.S. dollar (the price of a 360-ml. bottle of 36-proof soju is 1,000 won)? Unlike most advanced countries that restrict the purchase and public demonstration of drinks, Koreans can buy and carry alcoholic beverages anytime, anywhere.
The time-honored tradition that regards drinking as a social lubricant of sorts and tolerates misbehaviors under the influence of alcohol have also led to nationwide binge drinking and a large number of problem drinkers.
Such social tolerance is the first and foremost reason that must change.
Even the prosecution tends to mitigate punishment of crimes by tipsy culprits, saying they were under a ``condition of weak body and mind.” Little wonder many police boxes are turned to havens of local drunks every night.
This must change now not least because the violent drunkards are habitual criminals, and the ones targeting especially at the weaklings of society, such as the very young, the elderly and women.
So the Seoul police chief’s latest declaration of ``war against violent drunkards” is welcome if belated. Policymakers should help with legal support that grants far larger power to the police wrestling with street drunkenness.
Yet the drive shouldn’t end up a one-time, demonstrative event as so many ``special campaigns” have done in the past. Nor should it lead to overeager crackdowns amid competition among police stations. Most alcoholics, even violent ones, are patients that need more treatment than punishment.
Most desirable is that Korea will cease to be a ``society that encourages boozing” as novelist Hyun Jin-gwon described nearly a century ago. Let’s toast to the unlikely wish!