A public-private consultative body will work to reform the drinking culture of Korea where an average of 13 people dies from alcohol-related causes every day, officials said Friday.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare and the Korea Health Promotion Institute said the consultative body, composed of experts from various private and public sectors, will hold its first meeting Friday to discuss domestic and foreign policies related to liquor, such as alcohol advertisements and drinking in public.
“Korea has an extremely tolerant culture toward drinking. We think it significant to operate a public-private council for changing it,” said Professor Kim Kwang-ki from Inje University’s School of Public Health.
The meeting will focus on establishing a foundation for setting medium- to long-term regulations, a ministry official said. "We expect to find an effective and highly technical plan to reduce the harm caused by alcohol as professionals from various fields gather together,” said Kwon Joon-uk, director-general of the ministry’s Health Policy Bureau.
The socioeconomic cost of drinking, which amounts to around 9.4 trillion won ($8.8 BILLION) annually, is causing significant problems in Korea, the ministry said. Statistics from last year show around 8,000 teens and adolescents seeking treatment for alcoholism, an increase of 25 percent from 2012.
The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety also said almost 50 percent of teens aged 10 to 19 have experience consuming dangerous levels of alcohol.
In a similar vein, the Ministry of Justice said it began a virtual reality (VR) treatment program for high-risk alcoholics this month. The VR treatment program that spans a total of 11 sessions has been installed in 10 probation offices nationwide.
The VR treatment, which covers a range of topics such as how to refuse alcohol for abstinence, manage anger and stress, and refraining from drunk driving, are available for use by around 5,000 individuals on probation for alcoholism, the justice ministry said.
According to statistics, about 20,000 out of 100,000 people sentenced to probation have alcohol-related problems such as drunk driving, domestic violence, and physical assault. The ministry said it plans to expand the program if the VR treatment proves useful.
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