Step in right direction
Will entertainers’ photos disappear from soju bottles? People are asking this question after the Ministry of Health and Welfare began a move to ban local distilleries from promoting their alcoholic products through the use of celebrity pictures on their bottles and cans.
Both cigarettes and alcohol harm human health. The government is now carrying out an active anti-smoking campaign by forcing cigarette makers to print grim pictures on packs. In contrast, however, it is allowing distillers and brewers to put photos of celebs on alcohol containers, causing criticism that the health authorities are not just lenient toward drinking culture but glamorizing it.
Few can deny Koreans are more tolerant of drinking than most other countries in the world. In the course of rapid economic development, a drink after work became a tonic for working life.
Particularly, soju — the cheap liquor often called the Korean vodka — has been elevated to a national drink, like an old buddy that helped Koreans live through the rough times.
Korea is the only OECD member nation that allows liquor companies to put celebrities’ images on alcohol labels. The government has allocated 138.8 billion won ($119.6 million) to anti-tobacco initiatives this year, but a mere 1.3 billion won to campaigns discouraging alcohol consumption.
The time has long past to change this imbalance. Up to 4,800 Koreans die of alcohol-related diseases a year, meaning 13 people lose their life a day because of drinking. According to other government data, alcohol’s social and economic costs amount to 9.45 trillion won a year, outweighing the 7.1 trillion won caused by smoking, and 6.7 trillion won by obesity.