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Welfare, Health & Security News

  • Clarification of the Minimum Legal Age To Purchase Alcohol and Cigarettes

  • Welfare, Health & Security News SMG 5903

    Although people know that selling alcohol to minors is illegal, not many people know the exact minimum legal age. According to a survey of 2,383 Seoul citizens conducted by the Seoul Metropolitan Government, only 20.9% of respondents could correctly identify the minimum legal age to buy alcohol and cigarettes in Korea.

    This confusion stems from the fact that the age at which someone is considered a “minor” varies from law to law, with different ages specified under civil law, the Public Performance Act, the Promotion of the Motion Pictures and Video Products Act, the Game Industry Promotion Act, and the Juvenile Protection Act. It is even more confusing because “Korean age” differs from the age system used in most other countries.

    For instance, under the Promotion of the Motion Pictures and Video Products Act, a “minor” is defined as someone who is under the age of 18, meaning that the minimum legal age to view restricted films is 19. However, according to the Juvenile Protection Act, 19-year-olds are considered minors and cannot purchase alcohol and cigarettes; you must be 20 or older to legally buy these items.

    In light of this confusion, the Seoul Metropolitan Government has recognized the need to create and place uniform signs to ensure the protection of minors. The newly designed signs, prohibiting the purchase of alcohol and cigarettes by minors, come at the request of many businesses.


    The design for the new signs is based on the symbol, which is 19 already widely seen on products and services prohibited for use by minors. The signs were designed using this symbol to clearly and easily display the minimum legal age required for purchase of alcohol and cigarettes, as stipulated by the Juvenile Protection Act.

    Before the final designs were adopted, the Seoul Metropolitan Government conducted a survey to determine the preferences of Seoul citizens. Two different designs have been developed, both of which clearly state the legal minimum age. Image files of the signs and a manual were provided to 5,827 stores and SSMs to be used in various forms. A total of 8 different types of advertisements promoting the signs will be issued in Seoul starting from May.

    Examples of Signs in Use