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Samsung’s plan to reinvent itself includes less binge drinking

Woo Sang-taek, designer and seller of a new measuring cup, drinks alcohol as he demonstrates the use of the cup during a photo opportunity at his office in Seoul.
Reuters/Truth Leem
This handy glass lets you mix your beer and soju with care.
  • Adam Pasick
By Adam Pasick

Senior Editor

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

Samsung’s smartphone business is getting squeezed and the company is facing a potential succession crisis within its founding family. These challenges have convinced the famously hierarchical company to loosen up a bit, with flexible work schedules, relaxed dress codes, and continued efforts to limit the mandatory after-hours binge-drinking sessions known as hoesik.

Reuters reports that hoesik (literally “staff dinners”) now follow the “1-1-9” rule, which restricts after-work team dinners and drinking sessions to one location, one type of alcohol, and a 9pm cutoff time. Previous hoesik, which is common in South Korean corporate culture, included multiple stops at bars, restaurants, and karaoke parlors, with each location devoted to a different kind of booze. Giving beer an extra kick by mixing in the Korean liquor soju is also popular.

But with Samsung struggling to right itself, all that has changed. “Younger staff are no longer forced to stay, and the senior workers will be careful not to upset their subordinates,” one Samsung worker told Reuters.

Samsung has been trying to rein in hoesik since at least 2012, when beolju (forcing drinks on others) and sabalju (mixing different liquors together into an intoxicating punch) were banned. But the company is facing an uphill battle. Hoesik is so prevalent in Seoul that it affects after-work traffic patterns (it’s light on Monday, a big hoesik night, because sozzled workers leave their cars at the office).

Thanks in part to these drinking sessions, South Koreans are by far the world’s biggest consumers of hard alcohol, downing an average of 13.7 shots per week.

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