In March, most of the bars around the universities are full and noisy. Most of the freshmen face at least one welcoming party a week from the seniors. Even though the problem of excessive drinking and unhealthy drinking culture is a big problem every year, this tradition seems to go on without hesitation.
As alcohol is something that can never be excluded from university culture, there should be some great influence and meaning to it.
Meaning of Alcohol in University Culture
“Even though I had to overcome many problems because of alcohol, I believe it is worth it. If you enter university, there are so many people and not much time to know each other. However, I think the characteristic of alcohol that makes people be frank give us chance to get to know people more easily in a short time.” Park Hyun-ah, a sophomore student of Korea University said. Like this student, many other students found great meaning in alcohol as a mechanism for people to get to know each other easily at university.
Is Alcohol Really a Big Problem?
When so many students are putting great meaning to alcohol culture at university and think positively about the culture, I wonder why there is so much criticism every year.
It is actually a great problem that this university alcohol culture sometimes leads to a student’s death, but if one considers the problem carefully, we can see that the alcohol was not the pure reason.
In the last ten years, ten university students have died in various kinds of university parities held for freshmen. Alcohol may have affected those accidents in some way, but the reason for their death was not purely alcohol. In interviews with the students, many said more accidents were caused by authoritarian attitude and lack of security regulations of the housings they stayed during the orientations or MTs..
However, besides the serious problems like death, there are other reasons for the negativity. According to a survey done by the Hanyang Journal, out of 70 students from 14 universities, 20 students viewed university alcohol culture in a negative way.
“It is good that alcohol encourages friendship and makes people energetic. However, in Korea’s university alcohol culture, there are some kinds of battle-mind in people,” Said Yang Jae-soon, a sophomore student majoring in English Linguistics and Literature at Hanyang University, majoring in English Linguistics and Literature. He added that university students are abusing the benefit of alcohol. He criticized that characteristic of proper amount of alcohol that could make people friendly is neglected over excessive drinking to win each other.
“I want to be drunk when I feel like to be drunk. In Korean universities, there are so many situations when drinking alcohol is inevitable. When juniors refuse alcohol from a senior, they are commonly treated like people who committed a crime. It really does not make sense. I am not a person who hates alcohol, but it is my responsibility to control the alcohol that might get me into trouble,” said Kim Hee-yeon, a sophomore at Ewha University.
These two reasons, excessive drinking that makes people go crazy and power abuse of the seniors pushing juniors to drink is two major problems of Korea’s university alcohol culture.
“I think most of people would agree that alcohol helps people to meet more intimately. It breaks the uneasy environment among new people and maintains actual connections among people. So, in a word, it is lubricating oil for the maintenance of human relationships,” said Lee Dong-jin, a Hanyang University student currently completing his military service.
A majority of students thought that alcohol is an essential part of university culture. Helping people get along easily and making the atmosphere exciting was the two major reasons for positive views.
In and out of universities, various views exist over the university alcohol culture. However, it seems like there were rather more positive reactions among university students. Maybe society is the one who is more discontent about this culture. Then, is it only a Korean problem?
Japan’s University Alcohol Culture
“I have been to Korea last year. Korea and Japan have very similar university alcohol culture. In Japan also, the authoritarian attitude exists. Sometimes it is even stronger. However, what is different is that in Japan, we do not force women to drink alcohol.” Ueyama Taiyo, a freshman student of Waseda University said. Besides the fact that they do not force women to drink alcohol, the culture that forces each other people to drink was similar to Korea.
America’s University Alcohol Culture
“U.S. universities’ alcohol cultures vary depending on region and school. However, the University of Virginia is where traditional American university alcohol culture and new alcohol culture from eastern part co-exist.” said Kamry Walker, a sophomore student of University of Virginia. She said, “Because in the U.S., the legal drinking age is 21, most of the freshmen and sophomores cannot have alcohol at the bar. Most of the alcohol drinking culture is made in fraternities and sororities. It is a social gathering among university students. In fraternity which is a social gathering for male university students, many freshmen are sent to hospital by ambulance. Seniors force freshmen to drink excessive amounts of beer and vodka.”
She added, “Like Korea, we also have games, but a bit different. We use alcohol in our games, not our hands and brains. Even though we play games, we normally drink alcohol while talking and dancing. For us, alcohol without music is unimaginable. Also, since we can easily get marijuana, it is often used at parties.”
It seemed that seniors’ authoritarian attitudes toward juniors were similar. Also, they were actually more dangerous, because of the stronger alcohol they enjoy and easier approach to drugs.
Europe’s University Alcohol Culture
“In England, the authoritarian relationship between seniors and juniors does not exist. We just hang out with the people we want. However, we play games, which are way more cruel and hard than those in Korea. The most popular game is called centurion. It is a game that you have to drink vodka shot in 10 seconds and you count the minute. I have done it for eight minutes, which means 48 shots.” Na Yerin, a freshman of Imperial College of London said.
As a student studying abroad, Yerin compared the alcohol cultures of Korea and England. She said, “In England, there are no obligations or pressure to drink, but when you want to hang out, it is way crueler.”
“Alcohol, sex, and drugs are our daily life. When you graduate, you have parties almost every night. This party means all that.” Michelle Longue, a sophomore student at Kingston University said. “But do not get it wrong. Not all English live like this, but we do.”
Unlike its gentle reputation, English had most cruel and chaotic alcohol culture. Seeing different but similar university alcohol cultures abroad, it seemed that it was not only our problem.
Enjoy, But Do Not Kill Yourself
Even in different cultures, most university students were into excessive drinking and the authoritarian attitudes of seniors were present. As many problems also occur in other parts of the world, it might be the problem of the twenties.
One psychologist said that people in their twenties have as much mental anxiety as people who are in the teens. Maybe this university alcohol culture started from that mental uneasiness.
Since alcohol has many good effects and great importance to university students, alcohol truly is essential part. However, the effort of students to never lead the happy gatherings to funeral gathering is needed. Enjoy, but be in control.