Korean Church, Activists Call for Action Against Childhood Drug Abuse

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About 19% of high school students in South Korea have consumed alcohol, study finds

Young drinkers enjoy a night out at a bar in Seoul, the South Korean capital. (Photo: AFP)

Posted: Jun 29, 2022 04:36 GMT

Updated: June 29, 2022 at 05:49 GMT

Catholic Church officials and social activists in South Korea have called for urgent action, including tough legislation to curb an alarming rise in drug abuse among adolescents and young people.

“Faced with various social issues that have been altered by the corona situation, we need to know how to maintain and protect the health and happiness of our families and future generations of young people and children,” Bishop Timothy Yu Gyoung-chon said. , Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Seoul.

The prelate, president of the Korea Addiction Research Foundation, made the comments during a seminar on substance abuse among children and young people, the Catholic Peace Broadcasting Corporation reported.

The symposium titled “Addiction Free Z (Generation)” was held on June 17 to develop a plan to address the rise in drug addiction among children and youth in South Korea through discussions with experts from all the countries.

“I think this is a valuable opportunity to discuss new alternatives by listening to and sharing the opinions of experts from various fields on how we can help them,” Bishop Yu said.

Na Se-Yeon, a representative of the Korea Institute of Health Promotion and Development, presented his findings.

“In Korea, although the level of regulation on alcohol abuse has been strengthened, it is still low compared to major foreign countries”

He said 19.3% of high school students in Korea had consumed alcohol. Among them, 49.8% are women and 42.5% men.

The institute also found that, on average, children had their first alcoholic drink at age 13.2. High school students were 1.6 times more likely to drink alcohol than middle school students.

Although Korea has a strict alcohol and drug policy, experts say it is inferior to the laws of other countries.

Korean law prohibits the consumption of alcohol before the age of 20. It also provides for up to five years in prison for abusing illegal substances.

In 2013, South Korea passed anti-rebate legislation that allows criminal prosecution of doctors and pharmacists who receive illegal drugs. In 2021, a mandatory drug testing policy for Korean teachers was introduced.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reports that crystal meth was the most abused drug in South Korea in 2021.

“In Korea, although the level of regulation on alcohol abuse has been strengthened, it is still low compared to major foreign countries. This will happen, so it will be necessary to monitor and strengthen regulations on things that are newly generated in the regulatory blind spot,” Na Se-Yeon said.

“When addictive substances such as alcohol, drugs, and tobacco enter the body, they act on the reward circuitry, which is a very efficient way to experience pleasure. It’s never healthy pleasure. “

Jong-Eun Ha, the director of KARF, explained the causes of addiction from a medical perspective.

“The tendency to smoke and drink among adolescents is on the decline, but considering the characteristics of adolescents, it is not a safe situation at all. When addictive substances such as alcohol, drugs and tobacco enter the body, they act on the reward circuitry, which is a very efficient way to experience pleasure. It’s never healthy pleasure,” he said.

Koreans are prohibited from using drugs in countries that have legalized these substances.

As a result, many overseas Korean youth and students are taking the opportunity to gain access to psychedelic drugs. Upon their return to South Korea, these students attempt to purchase drugs through illegal means, thus exposing themselves to the illegal market and its dangers.

In 2020, South Korea became the first country in Asia to legalize marijuana for medical purposes.

Cho Chang-Seon, team leader of the Goyang Addiction Management Integrated Support Center who presented his findings, insisted that strict enforcement of regulations and age limits is necessary in South Korea as in North American countries.

The research team found that the Covid-19 pandemic has contributed to the increase in addiction among children and adolescents.

Father Eun Seong-Je of the Archdiocese of Seoul said the Church should work with parents and other groups to fight addiction through counselling, service and healing. “Members of the church community must walk together,” he said.

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