Korean Police Crackdown on Drunk Driving at Dawn

Seoul police have started a crackdown on early morning drunk driving, a time when many office workers are recovering from the previous night’s drinking parties with coworkers. Police and netizens have pointed out how early morning drunk driving is a symptom of Korean office drinking culture.

Employees are often obligated to attend hwesik or work parties meant to promote team building and relationships. These company-sponsored functions involve eating massive amounts of food, consuming large quantities of soju and other alcohol, and singing late into the night at noraebang with your boss and colleagues. However, having a hangover or not getting enough sleep the day after a hwesik is not an acceptable excuse to call in sick-workers are still expected to show up on time the next morning. This has led to a serious problem of people driving to work while still under the influence.

While a few netizens complained about the roadblocks set up to catch drunk drivers, the majority criticized hwesik culture and supported stricter measures against drunk driving.

From Naver:

Citizens caught during crackdown on drunk driving at dawn say, “It’s because I’m going to work…”

Seoul police officer stopping a car during the crackdown

Seoul police officer stopping a car during the crackdown

It is 5:00 a.m. in the morning on the 22nd,cars head towards Gimpo Airport on Olympic Way. It is here that police have cracked down on drunk drivers, many of whom offered the excuse that they were on their way to work.

They thought that nothing would happen this morning and were flustered when they came face to face with police.

46-year-old Mr. Kang, whose license was suspended after a blood alcohol level reading of 0.066% said, “As a driver, leaving for work at 6:00 a.m. is early for me” and “Usually, to sober up, I need to sleep 7-8 hours, but last night, I only slept 5 hours.”

Mr. Kang scratched his head, saying “Because of work, the day after drinking, I frequently have to leave early and hope nothing happens, but I eventually got caught” and “I really regret it.”

There are also people who suddenly get angry.  Before taking a breathalyzer, 41-year-old Kim takes out a cigarette and puts it in his mouth and yells at the policeman explaining the procedures to him, “Yes, I drank, even if I didn’t, you’re annoying so stop explaining and just do it.”

With a blood alcohol content level of at least 0.126%, Mr. Kim’s license was revoked. Mr. Kim’s BAC level was the highest among those who were caught during that morning’s crackdown.

There were also many who are relieved to have passed the alcohol blood test, these drivers initially came to the attention of police after they smelled of alcohol in their car.

Mr. Chung drank until 12:00 a.m. at a school reunion last night, tested a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.026%, and was released with a warning.  Chung was extremely nervous at being made to take a BAC test and blamed himself, saying “It’s fortunate I didn’t get my license suspended, but I think I made a huge mistake.”

Chun drank four bottles of soju with his juniors the night before, resulting in a BAC of 0.039%. He said “I had to leave for work at dawn, so I had no choice but to drive fast. When I woke up, I had a hangover, so I was worried. I won’t drink and drive again.”

Traffic Safety Officer Han Che Young of the Kangdong Police Station, who is leading the crackdown, said “There are a lot of hweshik [company gatherings] around the end of the year, so we expect to see an increase in the number of people drinking and driving. At the end of the night, after drinking, you have to get enough sleep to ensure you don’t harm other drivers.”

According to the Seoul District Police Department, that day, they carried out a crackdown on drunk driving in areas such as Kangseo’s Hwagok-dong, Gwanak’s Sillim-dong, and Kangdong’s Amsa-dong. In these three areas, there were six cases where the driver’s license were revoked, two cases where licenses were suspended, and thirteen people who were released with a warning.

Comments from Naver:


We have to lock up all those bastards who drink and drive.


what, you couldn’t find somebody else to drive you in the morning? haha


At the end of the year, at gatherings, you’re forced to drink, and the next day, the number of people who show up to work decreases ke think about your body. Just drink a little bit earlier and leave quickly, long gatherings suck.


A 41-year-old, who drinks all night and then gets behind the wheel is preparing to be a murdered ke ke ke


It would have been convenient to use public transportation..


We have to get rid of our country’s company gathering culture. Honestly, it’s only the ggondae who like company gatherings. Young people are getting sick and tired of them.


Oh~ Thank you to the policemen who are implementing this crackdown and having to deal with people cursing at you early in the morning. There will be people who curse, and people who accept it…I’m more on the approving side. I also own a car and drive, but I honestly think that it’s dangerous to drive while you still are under the influence of alcohol.  It’s even dangerous to drive while sober.

An early morning driver takes a breathalyzer test

An early morning driver takes a breathalyzer test


No matter how you look at it, it’s really pathetic. I don’t like going, but I’m forced to go and drink, and leave for work early the next morning in this tired state.


the next niche market: a morning chauffeur service


Expand the drunk driving crackdown. We should wipe out the fucking department heads who make you drink until really late.


If it continues like this, then the number of companies that have late night gatherings on work days will slowly decrease


If you drink until late, sleep, then wake up, and then drive in the morning and you blow and it comes out to a 100%, then don’t drive.


Whenever people get caught drinking heavily, they blame it on our country. What, did your country make you drink and drive?


I hope they strengthen measures against drunk driving. Drinking and driving is the same as murder.


Don’t make up excuses. Even at dawn, there are designated drivers to be found.

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  • Guest23

    I kinda agree with some of the netizens’ comments, they gotta start at the source, stop all of this late night mandatory drinking parties, they’ve gotta get some kind of substitute or make it a monthly thing, or just practice moderation, so they can get more time for their personal lives and not worry about health problems or drunk driving accidents.

    • chucky3176

      The only way that will ever happen is the government get involved and legislate laws governing after hour office parties. Since they are considered work related activity, the government should force the employers to pay overtime to their employees for drinking sessions.
      But most employers will flaunt the law and force their employees, but at least it will give the workers a way to bring their complaints to the courts and force these businesses to comply. Couple of hundred thousand dollar judgement against the companies should be enough to get their attention and let their workers go home early and enjoy their family lives.

      But the corrupted government won’t do that because they’ll be hounded by all the restaurant owners and small business people who are in business selling liquors and drinky girls in room salons. As soon as they see their danger of their profits shrinking, they’ll be up in arms in street protests.

  • commander

    I think the best shot-term fix for workers who have to drive to work in the early morning hours of the day after going on a drinking binge is that a company sets aside some money as a budget for taxi fares that are given to still-under-influence workers for a taxi ride to the workplace.

    In the long term, firms need to invent better ways for teamspirit building other than a drinking spree. Or at least create an environment where corporate workers drink in moderation without currying favor with their boss.

    It’s about time to replace a drunken orgy with more comfortable, stress-easing leisure activies.

  • Brett

    Obviously it’s important to keep drunks off the road… But this drinking culture is hurting employees who only drink with their bosses to keep standing in the company.

    Bosses who often hold huisiks are losers who either A. Don’t want to go home to their families, or B. Have no real friends to drink with because they are assholes. Many employees attend huisiks because either A. Hey, it’s free booze, or B. They want to move up in ranks eventually and not drinking will hurt their chances.

    I just want to point out, by the way, how funny it is to see middle-aged men in suits puking/passed out in the streets. I’ll never get used to it, no matter how long I live in Korea.

    • chucky3176

      Public drunkenness is an accepted behavior in Korea, as long as you’re not hurting other people. People become more tolerant towards stupid behavior when people get drunk. I do agree with you that moderating the drinking culture during and outside of work related activity would do wonders to the Korean society in general.

    • commander

      The poor middled-aged men who are forced to drink heavily at after-work gatherings for promotion may ease their stress by have a drink with their friends this time backbiting their boss.

      After all, Koreans drink alcohol when they are happy for celebration, stressed out for getting rid of steam and are at corporate get-togethers for getting promoted.

  • babotaengi

    Why are dudes who blow under the legal limit getting warnings? I’d tell em to shove their warning.

  • wow much drunk such driving

    • lonetrey / Dan

      much driving such drunk wow

      • atom

        just. wow.

    • One for all


  • harvz

    Why aren’t they taking the buses, metros, and trains to work after a night out on the booze?

    • Yaminah Jamison

      Kinda depends on what time they start running and what time they gotta be at work. Not defending drink driving but not everyone likes public mass overcrowded transit

      • harvz

        If I can hop on a 5:50 bus in Chungnam and get to Gangnam by 8:15, and then make it to work on time in Jamsil. I think that they can probably arrange a way to work in the Seoul metro area. Seoul has early hour buses now that can get you at least a cheap taxi fare away from the office.

        I just don’t see how there is any excuse except carelessness

        • Yaminah Jamison

          I’m just saying it based on also my experience too. Then again I don’t live in a city so i know not all transits are available when needed especially depending on the time. But I suppose city stuff run earlier too? I just take into consideration that transit isn’t always the possible solution for everyone. *shrugs*

  • Boris

    “I honestly think that it’s dangerous to drive while you still are under the influence of alcohol. It’s even dangerous to drive while sober.” – In Korea and China, that is certainly the case.

  • vonskippy

    When will companies learn……. and build a bar at work.

    • A Gawd Dang Mongolian

      Probably they are still working out how to counter the problems that’ll come with it like ‘mysterious disappearances of beverages’ and ‘finding that guy from marketing naked and passed out on the president’s desk’.

  • Guest

    maybe if koreas drinking culture wasn’t so crazy they would have less drunk drivers.. like why do businessmen go on a drinking binge like everyday of the week???

  • lonetrey / Dan

    I wonder if they bother drinking more water to lessen the hangover… or are they just totally going in blind and hoping they make it out as little drunk as they can?

    I feel like it’s totally bad to even mention this, but I also wonder if any of them has considered learning how to just regurgitate it all up neatly in the bathroom so that they can strategically engage in this “drinking contest” with their bosses. Not that I like this idea, but if you’re being forced to drink might as well come up with a plan for it.

  • Mighty曹

    The ability to drink and drive within 4-6 hours should be a requirement during the hiring process.

  • But what about the SK dramas? Every time something stressful happens mom or wife has to tear a booze bottle out of somebody’s mouth. Is it not all good?

  • Jang

    Has anyone actually blown into(or at?) a Korean breathalyzer? Last night my friend was driving home and ran into one of these road “crackdowns” and I couldn’t believe how lame it was. He blew for 1 second and didn’t blow into anything, I’d say he blew :at” it with most of his “breath” escaping since his lips weren’t touching anything. In America the cops would’ve made him blow “into” it for at least 2 seconds. In the U.S. there ain’t nothing “quick” about blowing in/at a breathalyzer. They make you blow long and slow. Don’t you have to put your lips onto something in Korea? Luckily my friend might have had only one drink at most per hour(3 hours).

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