Korea is hot on the issue of drunk driving. Yoon Chang-ho, a 25-year-old young man, was hit by a drunk driver during his break from the military on September 25. On October 31, Lee Yong-ju, the lawmaker as well as the co-founder of the “Yoon Chang-ho law” which would strengthen punishment for drunk driving, was caught drunk driving in Seoul. According to the National Police Agency, the number of arrests on drunk driving dropped by 24 percent in five years from 2013 to 2017. However, the number of people caught driving while under the influence of alcohol is said to have increased significantly.
The biggest reason why the public gets angry is due to the lack of appropriate punishment for driving under the influence of alcohol, which is one of the reasons why tragedies like the one mentioned are repeated. In Korea, a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) higher than that of 0.05% is considered as drunk driving. BAC of over 0.05% and less than 0.1% are usually fined three million won, and licenses are suspended for 100 days. If the BAC exceeds 0.2%, he or she can be fined more than ten million won. In this case, the driver is generally judged to be significantly inhibited, both emotionally and physically. This means that people can be punished for a crime only monetarily even though their actions significantly increased the likelihood of causing terrible crimes.
Compared to other countries, the punishment level for drunk driving in Korea is quite low. For instance, Brazil has a strong regulation policy that sentences fines and suspends licenses for only 0.01 BAC, and Germany’s smallest penalty for drunk driving is 500 euros (about 650,000 won). We can see that drunk driving in other countries is taken much more seriously than it is in Korea. Recently, the South Korean police said they would push for an enhancement to the Road Traffic Act. Although it would contain stricter measures than before, the effective practicality of it still remains uncertain.
South Korea has experienced a series of fatal accidents caused by drunk driving in recent months, and the government should check whether the current level of punishment is reasonable or not, while also trying to raise public awareness about drunk driving. Additionally, citizens should keep in mind the danger of drunk driving and make sure they are away from the steering wheel after drinking.