TheKoreanGuide is a reader-supported site. Purchases made through links may earn a commission.

Can 19 Year Olds Drink in Korea?

Jason Park
Published by: Jason Park
Last updated:

Did you just get 19 and are wondering if you can legally drink in Korea? I was wondering the same thing when I was 19 and found out that you can legally drink at 19.

The legal drinking age is 19 in South Korea, meaning you’re allowed to drink alcoholic beverages. This is the first year you can officially drink without any restrictions.

But what about the Korean age system, how does it work, and what’s your Korean age. Keep reading to find out.

Let’s get started.

Do Koreans drink underage?

Yes, there are some Koreans that drink underage. However, it’s illegal so you’re basically ignoring the law.

This doesn’t mean that people stop drinking when they’re underage. It happens at parties, with family, and during holidays.

However, drinking underage is rather frowned upon in Korea. If you’re drinking alcohol openly, and the people know you are underaged. You’ll most likely get in trouble.

So avoid drinking if you’re not at the legal drinking age yet. Wait a couple of years and enjoy the legal age.

When you’re 19, you can celebrate. It’s your first year being able to enjoy alcohol legally.

How Often do Koreans Drink?

Generally speaking, Koreans drink at least once a week. It’s very normal for people to go for a drink when they come home from work, or on the weekend with friends.

However, most Koreans don’t get drunk when they drink. They know their limits and will stop drinking once they feel they’ve had enough.

But there are always people that drink too much (2 bottles of soju). And the next day they have a huge hangover. What helps with a hangover is Haejang-guk.

It’s a very sour broth that you will find at any Korean restaurant. The main ingredients are radish and beef stomach. It’s very good for curing your hangover, so make sure to order some before you leave the restaurant.

Do You Need an ID to Buy Soju?

Yes, you need an ID to buy soju. It’s the rule in Korea that if you’re not over the age of 21 can’t buy Korea.

You can, in fact, drink at the age of 19 but not purchase soju. Most stores check IDs if they don’t think you’re too young.

When I first moved to Korea, every time they checked my ID. Even though I went to the same store every week they still had to check my ID.

It’s a basic rule that everyone follows and there shouldn’t be a problem with that. So if you’re in a department store and are looking to purchase alcoholic beverages.

Expect to show your ID especially if the people behind the counter are younger people. I’ve seen high school students drink but this was a rare occasion and almost never happens.

Should You Drink When You Are Underaged?

No, you should not drink when you are underage. If you do, you’re breaking the law and could get in serious trouble with your school or the police.

Underage drinking can lead to medical problems later on in life. It can also cause depression, anxiety, and other issues.

So wait until you’re over the legal drinking age, then you can drink at 19.

Can 1 Bottle of Soju Get you Drunk?

No, 1 bottle of soju can’t get you drunk. You’ll need about 2 bottles of soju to get your blood alcohol content up and to feel something similar to being drunk.

For some people, it takes a couple of bottles to feel the effect. It depends on how high your alcohol tolerance is.

Some people get drunk after 1 shot while others after 5 bottles.

However, the majority of people don’t get drunk after 1 bottle. Drinking 1 bottle is the start of a long night and you can’t expect it to get you drunk right away.

Is 19 a Minor in South Korea?

Yes, 19-year-olds are still a minor in Korea, therefore all of the people under 19 are minor. Including 16, 17, and 18. Only the people who are 20 years old are considered to be an adult.

Thus you can’t buy alcohol or cigarettes until you are 20 years old.

Even if you try to purchase alcohol, the stores might not sell it to you.

Different countries have different rules when it comes to alcohol and cigarettes. Some allow people to purchase it when they are younger, while some countries require you to be older.

However, in Korea, the age is 20 years old. You have to wait until you are 20 years old before you can buy alcohol.

It’s a law that everyone has to follow.


All in all, 19-year-olds can drink in Korea legally. Both males and females can enjoy the nightlife with a drink in their hands without having to worry about anything. However, they can’t purchase a bottle.

Enjoy the article?

You'll love my daily email! Learn something new about South Korea every single day. It's completely free. <3

    About The Author

    Photo of author

    Jason Park

    Jason has been living in Seoul for over 4 years, and during that time, he has experienced many of the city's hidden stores. He loves to write about his experiences and share them with others. Jason has been quoted and referenced by different major media companies like Mashed, Distractify, ThePrint and TastingTable. In his free time, he likes to watch Korean dramas and learn more about Korean culture.

    You May Also Like