Double standards: crinking vs smoking in k-drama:
I’ve read, in articles and statistics, that Koreans are heavy smokers. Still, we don’t see any smoking in dramas and very little in films. This, probably, so that viewers don’t get a bad example. So far so good, and I like this.
But… why don’t they do the same thing with drinking?
There is no k-drama without a drunk scene, male or female or both. And often it’s a way for the characters to show their true feelings and be more open, so it often leads to more closeness and eventually romance. A couple of times it leads… to bed, a drunken one-night stand which of course always results in pregnancy and later on a relationship.
I (and I know I’m not alone) find these drunk scenes cringe-worthy, male or female, not cute, not funny.
Alcohol is a drug just as much as nicotine, and a serious problem for many people. I’ve read that alcoholism is rampant in Korea - although they are not the biggest drinkers in the planet, still they are the country with the biggest drinking-related problems. Why? Because of East Asian low alcohol tolerance. Read below if you are interested, otherwise skip to the “Dramas” part.
The WHO publish periodically The Global Status Report on Alcohol. In this 2014 list, S.Koreans are placed at the 17th place, North East European countries being on top.
CAVEAT: It must be pointed out that this list takes into account PURE ALCOHOL consumption, not drink quantity.
Soju’s alcohol content varies from about 16.8% to 53% alcohol by volume (ABV), but usually 19%. and sake (rice wine) 15% to 18%.
Western liquors like vodka and brandy have around 40%, whisky and gin around 40%–50%. Info from here.
Therefore you need the double quantity of soju to get drunk than if you were drinking Western spirits.
Here is a more comprehensive and fun interactive map with charts and all, taken from 2011 data. Here South Korea is much lower, 35th out of 186 countries. They also break down by type of alcohol.
On the other hand, if you count “shots per week”, Korea seems to be much higher, drinking twice as much as Russians and more than four times as much as Americans:
In recent years drinking seems to be getting worse. A much more recent article, from February 2016 states that
In 2016, S. Korea was labelled as the country with the worst drinking problem in [this Al Jazeera article] (http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2016/02/country-world-worst-drink-problem-160202120308308.html).
Here is [a chilling 2016 article by Tammy Cho in “The Monsoon Project”.] (https://themonsoonproject.org/2016/10/10/a-sobering-look-at-south-koreas-drinking-culture/)
[QUOTE]The Journal of Korean Medical Science reports that every night about 6 million South Koreans drink 9.53 million bottles of beer and 8.97 million bottles of soju (a distilled Korean liquor with about 20% alcohol). According to the same paper, the World Health Organisation found in 2010 that Korea has the highest prevalence of alcohol abuse and dependence at 6.76 per cent of the population.[/QUOTE] and
The documentary "South Korea’s Hangover." has many interviews with people who confirm this, saying drinking is a social bonding agent.
But why countries who drink more seem to have less of a problem?
East Asians physiological reactions to alcohol.
There is another aspect, not often talked about. Most East Asians have a lower tolerance to alcohol: they easily get drunk but also they get more easily addicted.
Read more about why East Asians cannot hold their liquor here, here, and here.
[QUOTE] Alcohol flush reaction is a condition in which an individual develops flushes or blotches associated with erythema on the face, neck, shoulders, and in some cases, the entire body after consuming alcoholic beverages. The reaction is the result of an accumulation of acetaldehyde, a metabolic byproduct of the catabolic metabolism of alcohol, and is caused by an acetaldehyde dehydrogenase deficiency. This syndrome has been associated with an increased risk of esophageal cancer in those who drink. (…)
Approximately 36% of East Asians (Japanese, Koreans, Vietnamese and Chinese) show characteristic physiological responses to drinking alcohol that includes facial flushing, nausea, headaches and tachycardia .
Around 80% of Asian people (less common in Thailand, Laos and the Indian subcontinent) have a variant of the gene coding for the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase called ADH1B, whereas almost all Japanese, Korean and Chinese peoples have a variant of the gene called ADH1C, both resulting in an alcohol dehydrogenase enzyme that converts alcohol to toxic acetaldehyde at a much higher efficiency than other gene variants (40- to 100-fold in case of ADH1B).
In about 50% of Asians, the increased acetaldehyde accumulation is worsened by another gene variant, the mitochondrial ALDH2 allele, which results in a less functional acetaldehyde dehydrogenase enzyme, responsible for the breakdown of acetaldehyde. The result is that affected people may be better at metabolizing alcohol, often not feeling the alcohol “buzz” to the same extent as others, but show far more acetaldehyde-based side effects while drinking.
They say that “alcoholism is less common in East Asian and Polynesian populations than in European populations, due to protective ADH and ALDH alleles.” Yeah, except for Korea! Koreans seem to ignore all that and drink anyway!
Smoking is never shown in k-dramas and knives are blurred by law. Yet drinking is depicted as not only normal, but fully accepted and almost never negatively judged.
I’m not saying that they should have everybody drink orange juice in after-work dinners and such. It would probably be too unrealistic (absence of cigarettes is also unrealistic, though).
But they could show characters keeping their glass for a long time, drink less. Instead of consuming whole rows of bottles to the point of passing out. Or, they could show people getting drunk every now and then, but convey the message that this is a bad thing. Show more of the consequences. Our characters are perfectly okay after eating a hangover soup, and they are able to go to work the next day and function normally. We are never shown somebody get seriously sick, or have their work performance messed up and losing their job, home and partner, running into a speeding car and ending up in the hospital, die because of self-harm, illness or whatever. We never see other people looking at them and commenting in a disparaging way, instead everyone says mildly “oh, why do you drink so much if you can’t take it?” and then moves on to other subjects. They take it in their stride. And social norms of not being able to refuse peer pressure regarding drinking are never challenged.
A woman who overdrinks is present in many dramas. I’m thinking of “Another O Hae Young” and of “Tomorrow with you”. The heroine embarrasses herself every single time she drinks, and yet the next time she does it again!
A woman puking is seen not as a disgusting thing, but makes the man feels tenderly protective and give her a piggiback ride home - an occasion for more closeness and skinship that otherwise would never be possible. Sometimes he’s a stranger too (I suppose she’s protected from a potential rape because he’s too drunk to get into shape for sex anyway).
Excessive drinking is seen as mildly funny, cute, sweet; a way to break down politeness and propriety bareers, be brutally honest about one’s true feelings and come closer with others; a social bonding agent and a way to enable dating. That’s what we see in k-dramas.
Is it possible that drama makers don’t understand their immense social responsibility in doing this? Don’t they know what an example they are setting, and how they are helping perpetuate the situation?
What are your thoughts?