Korean Celebrities’ Drinking Videos on YouTube Raise Concerns about Underage Drinking Encouragement

There is growing concern among parents in South Korea that images of Korean celebrities enjoying alcoholic drinks on social media, such as YouTube, could encourage underage drinking. Critics have pointed out that minors can easily access drinking-related videos on social media, where there are few legal restrictions on such content.


The worry is that young children are being exposed to alcohol through online platforms, with office workers in their 40s reporting that their children have asked questions like, “Does alcohol taste good?” and “What happens if you get drunk?” after watching a YouTube clip of a member of a popular K-pop girl group advertising an alcoholic beverage.


One of the main issues is the popularity of soolbang videos, which feature content creators drinking alcoholic beverages, often to excess. These types of videos have become increasingly popular in South Korea, with even K-pop stars such as Jisoo from the girl group Blackpink, An Yu-jin of IVE, and members of the boy band Seventeen appearing in similar videos where they drank alcohol during interviews before the camera.

While the demand for drinking-related content is rising, managing and controlling such content is nearly impossible, as social media platforms like YouTube are legally unregulated. YouTube itself has no strict age restrictions for watching drinking-related content on the platform.


The Ministry of Health and Welfare did amend an enforcement decree in June 2021 to ban the display of alcohol advertisements on or in public transportation to protect minors. However, it does not regulate drinking-related scenes on social media. The ministry’s Korea Health Promotion Institute monitors drinking scenes that could encourage underage drinking on television, YouTube, and streaming services. However, monitored scenes are not necessarily censored.

According to the institute, the average number of views of YouTube videos subject to monitoring was 800,000 as of 2021. The institute monitors the top 100 videos, based on the number of hits, which are tagged with drinking-related keywords such as soolbang. Shockingly, not a single video restricted children or students from watching them, despite around 90 percent containing problematic drinking scenes.


Experts blame Korean society’s permissive views on drinking for the rise in underage drinking. The underage drinking rate rose 2.3 percentage points from 10.7 percent in 2021 to 13.0 percent last year, according to a Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) survey released in April.

To address this issue, the Health Ministry and the Korea Health Promotion Institute are considering amending guidelines for drinking scenes in media so that they can ask YouTube channel operators to set age restrictions for videos with drinking scenes. Critics say the lack of legal restrictions on these platforms is a serious problem, considering how more and more underage students are hitting the bottle.

Some experts stress the need for institutional intervention to regulate harmful scenes, suggesting that the participation of non-governmental organizations or civic groups could lead to more reports that stir up public opinion as the government currently only monitors such scenes. Others suggest that the media’s outdated concept that alcohol must accompany deep conversations should disappear, with negative effects of alcohol emphasized just as they are for cigarettes.

Source: koreajoongangdaily

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