Sunday, July 29, 2012

Alcohol in Korean Society

A priest from the Seoul diocese, who had a problem with alcohol when he was a navy chaplain, recently received his doctorate in the treatment of alcohol addiction. A secular paper, profiling his life,  tells us that he knew he was not able to overcome the problem on his own, and admitted himself to a hospital in 1988.  The following year he began helping those who were having difficulties with alcohol in the Seoul diocese.

The article was based on an interview with the priest in his rectory. Why did he start so late? he was asked. He said he felt he needed more knowledge than he had received from his formal education and from his experience. Those days had been difficult for him, he said, and for two months he was getting less than two or three hours of sleep.

The content  of his doctoral dissertation was divided into five parts:  dealing with one's actions, cognitive behavior-- reflecting on the past, the reality one faces in life, the healing powers of music, and of spirituality.

He mentioned that one of the groups of twenty he had conducted for three months had 17 members who overcame  the desire for a drink. With hospital treatment while they were  taking the drugs, they were able to refrain from drinking, but once they left and without follow up sessions, they often began drinking again,

Excessive drinking affects part of the brain that has to do with thinking and acting, so telling yourself to  quit is not going to work, and is the reason help is usually required.  He repeatedly mentioned that in Korea the culture does not make it easy to refrain from drinking.  When you go out to eat with your boss, for example, and he offers you a drink, it's difficult to refuse. The only way to avoid the difficulty is not to go out for that meal with the boss; after the drinking no one will remember, the priest feels certain, who should have been there and wasn't.

To the question what does Catholicism say about drinking, he answered by quoting some scriptural passages.  Catholicism is much more tolerant of drinking, but it is very clear that excess is not acceptable; moderation is the virtue that is taught.  It is not difficult to see, however, that Catholicism  is much more understanding of excess than Korean Protestantism. In the Korean culture, with its tolerance of excessive drinking, this may not be such a good thing.

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