DO YOU drink? From the first day at university, most freshmen learn to drink. With events like freshmen orientation and membership training (MT) lined up throughout the semester, students are faced with countless situations that encourage them to drink. The drinking phenomenon is especially widespread in Korea where entering university is considered to be a symbol of adulthood. This tacit agreement allows more freedom than the students’ younger years, and unleashes them to the drinking culture that exists among young university students.
To drink or not to drink?
Almost three-quarters of Yonseians drink. In fact, according to the survey conducted by *The Yonsei Annals* 73.1% of Yonseians replied that they drink. This figure reflects the mass drinking culture that many university students get involved in. “From March when we enter university, we are faced with countless ‘drinking parties.’ I think it becomes harder for us to get involved in the university community if we do not participate in them,” says Kim Jun-hyeok (Fresh., Dept. of Earth System Sciences). Kim’s words are hard to disagree with, especially for freshmen that have just entered university. Most freshmen’s planners are filled with dinners and drinking occasions hosted by their departments or student clubs. On top of regular drinking occasions, these student communities also organize one-day-pubs.
This omnipresent drinking culture seems to exist because “drinking parties,” better known as *suljaree* are an effective way to get to know new people. According to the survey, 26.7% of Yonseians replied that they think the drinking atmosphere helps them meet new people, and 33.2% of the drinkers answered that they drink in order to maintain a friendly relationship with other people. To a question that asked the greatest advantage of *suljaree*, 28.5% answered that drinking helps confide their concerns or burdens. And, 26.6% of people answered that drinking helped them get to know new people, and 20.3% found that it helped maintain friendships. To sum up in a nutshell, most people drink in order to socialize – whether to make new relationships or maintain old ones - but ironically most answered that the greatest merit of drinking was being able to divulge their worries and problems, which is more concerned with self-satisfaction and fulfillment.
However, although nearly half of the drinking Yonseians drink to socialize, a staggering 81.0% of people responded that it is possible to maintain good relationships with others even without drinking. This means that drinkers drink in order to socialize even though they are aware that socializing can be done without alcohol. This rather ironic result indicates that drinking is only one of the many methods of socializing.
On the other hand, around one fourth of Yonseians answered that they do not drink. According to the survey, 26.9% of Yonseians answered that they do not drink at all. This is a relatively large portion of Yonseians, considering the number of people who recognized the positive effects of drinking. 29.2% of non-drinkers said that they do not drink because they dislike the taste of alcohol itself. On the other hand, 22.8% of non-drinkers answered that they do not drink, because drinking goes against their religious beliefs.
Problems associated with drinking
Drinking has its own merits, but just like two sides of a coin, it has its own downsides. What did Yonseians choose as the biggest problem of drinking? Although the negative health effects are widely known, another rather altruistic option received the most votes. An overwhelming 64.8% responded that the greatest problem associated with drinking is that it can cause harm on others. “It is not difficult to spot drunken people sleeping on the grounds on Friday nights.” Just like the words of Kim Ha-na (Fresh., College of Communication), 35.8% say that they have made mistakes after drinking, and 50.0% of these people answered that they either slept or vomited on the streets. This translates to about one out of five Yonseians.
Interestingly, it seems that Yonseians have a conflicted attitude towards drinking. Although 35.8% of Yonseians have once caused harm on others after drinking, 71.8% think that the current college drinking culture is fine. Only 11.8% of people responded negatively to the current drinking phenomenon of Yonseians, claiming that they should spend their money and time to invest in something more productive.
Also, the majority of Yonseians, 58.8%, believed that there exists a custom for people to offer alcohol to those who do not wish to drink. However, only 35.9% respondents have actually experienced being offered to drink against their will. The two contradictory results suggest that the tendency of forcefully offering alcohol in university is not as severe as many think. But although the occurrences of such alcohol offerings are not as frequent, 66.4% of people could not refuse to drink when offered alcohol against their will.
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Everything has two sides – depending on the viewpoint, everything can be perceived both positively and negatively. This also applies to drinking. Drinking may have its own merits in helping people socialize and relieve themselves of mental burdens. But the survey revealed that the majority of Yonseians think that socializing is possible without drinking, and the same goes for relieving ourselves from stress and worries. Like anything else, drinking needs moderation. It sometimes acts as a tool to socialize, but be careful not to overuse it – it may bring negative consequences.