Drinking Age in South Korea: Everything You Need To Know

Drinking Age in Korea

In this topic, we will be talking about the drinking age in Korea, the drinking habits and culture of Koreans, and if underage drinking is a prevalent thing in the country. Hopefully, this discussion will be able to answer any question you may have regarding everything that involves South Korea’s alcohol laws – In case you need to pay the country a visit sooner or later. 

If there’s one thing that’s certain, it’s that Koreans love to drink alcohol. Drinking alcohol has become part of practically every social gathering in the country, and even some of them have considered drinking a necessary element in their lives. So, what does this say regarding the liquor laws surrounding the country? Is the government of South Korea doing something to stop this case? Find out more on this topic. 

What is the Legal Drinking Age in Korea?

In South Korea, you have to be at least 19 years old to consume alcohol (For anyone curious, North Korea is also 19). They have this tradition of turning a year older on January 1, and once a Korean turns 19 that year, whether it’s actually their birthday or not, this means that they officially have access to the alcohol of their choice. 19 is also the official age when Koreans are allowed to enter bars and nightclubs. 

What is the Legal Drinking Age in Korea for Tourists and Foreigners?

Over the past decade, South Korea’s tourism has boomed thanks to the recent global influence of K-Pop, Korean fashion, movies, dramas, and of course, cuisine and alcoholic beverages. Getting inside the best nightspots in South Korea means that you have to be 19 years old and above, whether you’re a tourist visiting the country or if you’re a native. 

Do You Need an ID to Drink in Korea? 

South Korea is pretty strict on checking IDs before letting anyone in an establishment that serves alcohol. If you’re a foreigner, be sure to bring your passport or a legal ID with you, although a driver’s license counts as well. Keep in mind that anyone below 19 years old will not be allowed to enter any of these establishments, even if they present a valid ID at the door. 

Legal Drinking Age in Korea with Parents 

Korea technically has two ages (the aforementioned “Korean age” and their official age outside of the country), and sometimes it can get confusing whether or not you’re allowed to drink alcohol now or not, especially if you’re in your late teens. Since South Korea is strict regarding the legal drinking age in the country, it’s probably safe to assume that anyone below 19 years old isn’t allowed to consume any alcoholic beverage, whether their parents have approved of this or not. 

Legal Drinking Age in Korea by Region 

From its bustling capital of Seoul to its fellow cities and tourist spots Incheon, Busan, Daegu, and even Jeju Island, South Korea’s love for alcohol can be felt everywhere. Aside from the usual international staples, you are more than welcome to sample any of the country’s home-grown liquors, such as soju, makgeolli (fermented rice wine), and Korean beer, which goes well with bar chow and Korean-style fried chicken. As long as you’re 19 years old and above, you can enter the establishment of your choice and drink to your heart’s content. 

Can Minors Drink in Korea with Their Parents?

Surprisingly, minors are indeed allowed to drink alcohol in South Korea as long as they have the permission of their parents. So perhaps if you’re only 18, there’s actually a chance that you can consume the alcohol of your choice – It all depends on whether your parent is fine with you consuming liquor or not. It’s important to remember that certain kinds of alcohol aren’t safe for minors either, especially when drunk a few times per day. 

Consequences of Breaking the Drinking Age Law in Korea 

An interesting thing you should know about is that even though South Korea’s drinking laws are generally relaxed, there are actually a few bartenders who will not give alcohol to minors for fear of getting arrested. But getting caught drinking underage will result in a heavy fine for both parties. There are also other alcohol-related laws that are strictly enforced around South Korea, such as public intoxication as well as drunk driving. 

Wrapping up the Drinking Age in Korea

For South Koreans, alcohol is ever-present in their culture, and it seems like there’s no changing that. If you end up coming to this country, better prepare yourself, as turning down an offer to drink here – Especially for higher-ups such as bosses and elders – Is actually considered rude. It also helps to follow the right drinking etiquette, so you won’t be considered rude. And finally, make sure that you are of the proper drinking age in Korea and handle your alcohol responsibly.  

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