In March and April, it is very common to see freshmen gather around on the Central Plaza or Hana Square to hang out and drink alcohol, though neither is this behavior encouraged, nor does it have been discouraged. This will end soon at the second half of this year, however, once Korea University (KU) is forced to adopt the new national law and is expected to officially ban students from drinking on campus. Since this policy is unprecedented, many doubt if it will be actually enforced, not to mention its necessity and effectiveness.
▲ This is the Central Plaza. Photographed by Kang Hyun Ji
The Ministry of Health and Welfare (MW) announced proposed changes to the Public Health Improvement Act in September 2012 that went into effect in April 2013, and official enforcement will begin in the second half of this year. MW proposal prohibits more public places from selling and allowing the drinking of alcohol, including university campuses.
What About KU?
One of the things that KU has long been known for is its heavy drinking culture. Although students these days seem to drink less than before, KU students are still considered to drink excessively, and many incidents have occurred due to over-drinking. Therefore, as MW mandates, KU will follow the new law.
In order to get a better grasp of the KU students’ awareness of and the opinions regarding this matter, The Granite Tower (GT) conducted a survey, asking 424 students about this issue such as, “Have you ever been informed that KU will implement the new law beginning the second half of this year?” and “Do you feel negatively or positively towards the action KU is going to take?” While their answers show consistency among groups that are divided depending the respondents’ major, gender and age, the answers are also surprising.
KU has not yet made any official announcements regarding this matter. This reflected by the fact that 56 percent of the students not knowing of the upcoming ban. Even among those who knew, 42 percent of them told GT that they heard it from others. On the other hand, a quarter of respondents were informed by the national media that drinking on campus would be illegal.
That there seems to be no suitable staff to enforce this policy generates more doubts about the possibility of effectively executing it. KU’s Campus Police seems to be the legitimate ones to do so, but they are already busy securing the campus. Having them patrolling the big campus of KU at night for preventing students from drinking could be unreasonable.
Students Chime In
The purpose of the changes to the Public Health Improvement Act, according to MW, is to prevent excessive drinking and the resulting health problems and incidents such as car accidents and violence. In terms of health, cancer is the biggest cause of death in Korea, and among various cancer types, liver cancer is ranked second. Therefore, MW considered that this new law would facilitate lowering the number of liver cancer patients.
Even though KU’s official stance is not known, what is certain is that the school is implementing it because it is required to do so. However, because the new policy will go into effect in the second half of this year, Jujeom, or the student-run temporary restaurants that sell alcohol on campus during festival periods, will not be affected. “Even after the law is officially put into practice in the foreseeable future, there will be an exception during the festival periods,” said Nam Guel Ro Na(’10, Korean Language and Literature), the director of Cultural Division of the Korea University Student Association (KUSA).
Nevertheless, KU students seem to be unhappy about KU’s actions. Among those responding the survey, 51 percent answered “negatively” to the question, “How do you feel about KU’s recent change of policy?” The opinion that this policy violates the right of university students to drink alcohol is the leading cause of this negativity.
Also, the effectiveness of such rules is seriously doubted. On a scale of one to six, one as to the policy having no effect at all and six as to having full efficiency, 63 percent of students chose either one or two. In other words, more than half of the students believe that the new policy will have none or little chance of accomplishing its goal, which is to increase public health and decrease accidents caused by excessive drinking.
“The new policy does not resolve the fundamental factors of causing excessive drinking and accidents and violence,” said Baek Tae Min (’12, Mechanical Engineering). As one of the students who feel negatively about the new policy and cast doubts on its effectiveness, Baek believes that the cause of excessive drinking is alcohol’s low price. Also, he asserts that the cause of drinking accidents and violence is strictly related to the criminals’ personal psychological issues, but not the alcohol itself.
Will It Work?
It is certain that the new policy will be enforced. While many things about the policy are unspecified and uncertain, the students of KU and of other universities will surely be affected. Will the efforts of the government and KU be in vain? Will the students actually drink less or will they just go to nearby bars instead and drink just as much? All we can do is to wait and see.