Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Huesik: Korean for binge drinking

A classic South Korean working day usually ends up in Huesiks, binge drinking sessions cast as social events. But behind the drunken smiles lurks an alarming variety of health problems that stem from heavy drinking.

Night falls on Seoul as workers leave their offices. It is time for Huesiks, boozy meals shared by coworkers at least twice a week. Taking part in them is highly recommended as those who do not can find themselves quickly ostracized from the group.

This means drinking a lot; and quickly. Part of the aim is to find summon courage to lose one’s inhibition and criticize the boss. We follow one group as they treated a client in a Japanese restaurant. They are going to talk business. But, above all, they will raise toast after toast. That's already four in less than ten minutes.

Soju is Korean people’s favorite drink. It is made of rice, potatoes or barley, is very cheap and usually contains about 25% of alcohol. So, a few hours and several bars later, these employees aren’t exactly in professional shape anymore.

Having left the bar, these heavy drinkers drunkenly wait on subway platforms or stumble out onto Seoul’s streets. One businessman we come across has drunk one bottle of whisky every day for the last 20 years. Despite a recent recovery from stomach cancer, he remains a heavy drinker.

In Korea, warnings against heavy drinking are still very rare. Advertising is legal. Yet, for the local authorities, the cost of alcohol abuse is mounting. One in 10 korean adults suffers from various health problems stemming from heavy drinking. And it is not about to change as average alcohol consumption rose again in September.
source: France 24

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