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Church, police partner on alcohol abuse

Sign agreement to increase penalties and offer more treatment options

Archbishop Andrew Yeom Soo-jung and Kim Yong-pan, Seoul police commissioner at a signing ceremony on Monday (Photo courtesy of Seoul archdiocese) Archbishop Andrew Yeom Soo-jung and Kim Yong-pan, Seoul police commissioner at a signing ceremony on Monday (Photo courtesy of Seoul archdiocese)
  • ucanews.com reporter, Seoul
  • Korea
  • August 17, 2012
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The Catholic Church and law enforcement signed an agreement earlier this week to work together to reduce the number of incidents of violence involving alcohol.

The agreement, signed at the Seoul archdiocesan curia on Monday, aims to increase penalties for alcohol-related violence while also offering better treatment options for alcohol abusers.

Ha Dong-jin, a senior inspector with the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency (SMPA), said “excessive drinking has caused serious problems in society.”

He added that alcohol abuse put a strain on families and even posed a threat to the safety of police officers that intervene in alcohol-related disputes.

“Punishment for drunken violence has been too mild to solve the social problem,” he said, adding that harsher punishments implemented in May will be more strictly enforced.”

Ha said this would include the immediate arrest of anyone committing alcohol-related violence.

Police have previously complained about lax attitudes towards drinking that have led police officers and courts to be lenient with offenders, Ha added.

Archbishop Andrew Yeom Soo-jung of Seoul, who signed the agreement with the SMPA, said South Korea ranked 11th in the world in the quantity of alcohol consumed per person in 2007, and that the country had an estimated 7.7 million alcoholics, out of a total population of about 50 million.

“There are limits in solving the alcohol-related problems by laws or crackdowns,” he said.

”They need treatment programs to change their habits.”

Kim Yong-pan, commissioner of the SMPA and co-signer of the agreement with Archbishop Yeom, said: "Seoul archdiocese can provide treatment programs for habitual drinkers and alcoholics, which would be another solution rather than punishing them heavily."

Seoul archdiocese has administered several addiction-related programs through its Pastoral Care Committee for Addiction, which offers various treatment options for people addicted to gambling, alcohol and drugs, and internet game.

Kim Ji-youn, supervisor of the committee, told ucanews.com: “We have counseled and educated not only victims but their family members and neighbors on how to deal with alcohol-related problems.”

He said the committee would prepare other programs to assist habitual drinkers and to educate young people about the dangers of alcohol abuse.

A South Korean over the age of 19 on average consumes 66.6 bottles of soju (distilled liquor similar to vodka), 100.8 bottles of beer and 14.2 bottles of makgeolli (Korean rice wine) per year, according to data from the National Tax Service in 2010.

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