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I’ve been reading a lot lately about young people who want to teach English in the Republic of Korea.  However, there are a number of concerns that their parents have about sending their children to South Korea.  The concern that I will talk about today is drug culture.  You would think that a parent that sent their child to a traditional 4 year university in the United States would not be worried about the effect of drugs on their child.

Many who have taught at such universities have commented about the rampant drug use at many of these universities across the United States.  However, some drugs are more openly used in other countries than they are in the U.S.   If you have a child that wants to go to Korea, or if you want to go to South Korea and have battled with drug addiction in the past, how worried should you be?

What Is A Drug?

The answer to this question depends on how you define drugs.  Many argue that the two most common and popular drugs in the world are alcohol and cigarettes.  If you consider these to be drugs, than you would need to worry about the South Korean drug culture.


Alcohol can be easy and cheap to get in Korea.  To give you an indication of this, this was my experience with Soju.  Where I’m at now in the United States, a bottle of Soju at a nearby liquor store would cost me around $8 USD.   That same bottle at a chicken and beer restaurant in Gangnam, back in 2014, cost me $3 USD.  At a 7 Eleven in Gangnam, that same bottle cost me less than $1.50 USD.  With this being such a cheap option for drinking, and the age at which you can purchase alcohol in the Republic of Korea being 19, drinking can be very popular with younger people.  If you have a problem with alcohol, South Korea may not be the place for you.


Smoking cigarettes can be quite common in Korea as well.  It is said that many men start smoking when they serve in the military.  This practice can carry over into civilian life as well.  A number of Korean women smoke cigarettes as well, although some may try to do it is secret.  The price of cigarettes is said to be so low in Korea that people who quit smoking in other countries due to the cost of cigarettes have actually started smoking again while living in Korea.  If you have quit smoking and do not wish to start smoking again, South Korea may not be the place for you.  But what about other drugs?  Are they rampant in Korea as well?

South Korea’s View On Other Drugs

As far as other drugs are concerned, South  Korea does not tolerate them being used or brought into their country.  And for those wondering, marijuana is considered a drug that Koreans do not tolerate.  How tough is the stance on marijuana in the minds of people?  Some KPOP stars have had scandals because they appeared to be smoking marijuana in another country.   The fact is that many Koreans have seen what has happened in other countries with drug usages and have decided that they do not want those drugs in their country.  Hence, why you must submit to a drug test before you can teach in Korea.  Also, if you have a drug charge in your background, you may not be allowed to work in Korea.

While many will try to argue that marijuana is not as harmful of a drug as alcohol or tobacco, the Republic of Korea does not agree at this time.  Bottom line, if you want to live in South Korea, you must play by their rules.  Hopefully this will help you to examine how drugs are viewed in Korea.  If you have any other questions, please feel free to #askthewaygookin.