S. Korea to crack down on drunken violence

South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak called Tuesday for tough action against alcohol-induced violence in a country where the police and courts have traditionally taken a lenient attitude towards drunken offenders.

"We must correct a culture of tolerating misbehaviour by drunk people," Lee told police officers and officials working to stamp out violence in schools and other sectors of society.

"Our country must be the only nation where drunks beat up the police," he said, according to his spokesman.

South Koreans are the world's heaviest consumers of spirits, with the average adult drinking 9.57 litres a year, according to 2005 data from the World Health Organization published last year.

Street brawls, family violence and other crimes involving drinking are common but police and courts often hand down lenient punishments to offenders who acted under the influence.

Last month top liquor maker Hite-Jinro started labelling soju and beer bottles with messages such as: "No more drunken violence!"

The joint campaign with the Seoul police aims to curb alcohol-induced violence and other rowdy behaviour.

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