HomeStoriesKorean Government Cracks Down On Popular Idol "Sulbang"

Korean Government Cracks Down On Popular Idol “Sulbang”


They have issued new guidelines.

With the increasing popularity of YouTube sulbang (alcohol drinking shows) content, there have been rising concerns about its adverse influence on the public in South Korea. In fact, the discourse has grown so big that the government is planning to step in.

BTS’s RM (left) and Suga (right) on Suga’s alcohol-drinking show “Suchwita” | @BTS/YouTube

South Korean YouTube content has seen a big boom in the past few years, with mukbang (eating shows) being at the forefront of popularity. However, now it is being replaced by sulbang, where popular celebrities, including K-Pop idols, appear on YouTube channels and chat while drinking alcohol. Rapper Lee Young Ji’s My Alcohol Diary was the first show of this kind to gain widespread popularity, followed by others like Jo Hyunah’s Thursday Night hosted by Jo Hyunah and Kian84’s Soolterview. Recently, the popular TV personality Shin Dong Yup also launched his drinking show Jjan Han Hyung, and the channel surpassed 1 million subscribers within a very brief period. But the most popular alcohol-drinking content in 2023 was aespa Karina’s episode on My Alcohol Diary, which attracted around 16.64 million views by October.

Karina (left) on “My Alcohol Diary” | @youngji_boxmedia/YouTube
Bae Suzy (right) on “Jo Hyunah’s Thursday Night” | @EverydayIsThursdayNight /YouTube
Hwasa (right) on “Jjan Han Hyung” | @zzanbro/YouTube

With this explosive popularity of such content, liquor stores are seeing unprecedented sales. Many alcohol companies are opting for PPL advertisements in these YouTube videos, which can cost between ₩50.0 million KRW (about $38,100 USD) to ₩60.0 million KRW (about $45,800 USD) for the top channels.

On the other side, such widespread influence has raised flags among the public. Parents specifically feel that seeing celebrities drink unrestrictedly while talking in a laid-back atmosphere can create a distorted perception of alcohol among children or teenagers, who are often a significant part of these channels’ audience demographics.

The real-life influence of celebrities drinking on screen was actually seen not too long ago, in December 2023, when an alcohol recipe by Kian84 went viral in Korea. He made a traditional fruit-soaked liquor on the popular variety show I Live Alone and used moldy tangerines. Despite the concerns over his using toxic ingredients, which could have serious health repercussions, the search interest in fruit-soaked alcohol recipe spiked by a 140% increase since the broadcast. Experts disapproved of the public blindly following such trends without proper measures, which could lead to severe problems.

| MBC
| MBC

The government has taken the concerns over YouTube drinking shows into consideration and issued two guidelines targeting specifically those channels that broadcast such content, asking them to minimize access to minors and add precautionary statements in scenes where drinking is being glamorized. However, the Ministry of Health and Welfare said that the government could only issue these guidelines as recommendations as they cannot legally regulate YouTube content like they can with TV broadcasts. So, they are urging voluntary self-restraint in this matter.

Shin Dong Yup’s show actually has incorporated warning statements about the harmfulness of excessive drinking in the channel introduction and also notifies viewers if the episode contains paid advertisements.

Shin Dong Yup’s channel started adding statutory warnings after concerns were raised.  | @zzanbro/YouTube

However, there are also voices opposing these concerns, who feel that this level of liberty is acceptable on YouTube and that creators should be allowed to share it freely with their audiences.

Source: Herald Corporation and Hankyung


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