In December 2011, professor Yoon in the Department of Social Welfare was awarded the Award of the Health and Welfare Minister for her meritorious deed that devoted her life to prevention of Korea’s drinking problem and to an alcohol counseling center development. The CBNU Globe met her and heard her opinion about the drinking problem in Korea.
● I heard you are Korea’s first addiction therapist and that you have been working for 20 years. I want to know how you can be the first addiction therapist and what the addiction therapist is.
I have been working as an addiction therapist for 20 years. I specialized in social work at Ewha Woman’s University and specialized in clinical social work in graduate school. At that time, when I saw drinking problems, I was determined to study about the addiction field. After graduate school, I went through America’s training process and worked as a therapist in the eighth US Army Drug & Alcohol Residential Treatment Facility (RTF) for a long time, because addiction therapists didn’t exist in Korea at that time. Thanks to that study and experience, when Korea established the Mental Health Act (in 1995), I immediately participated in the establishing Mental Health Act and Mental Health Professional System and could make a Mental Health Professional System. Also, addiction therapist is an occupation that provides medical treatment for solving addiction problems through psychosocial intervention. Addiction problems cover alcohol addiction, drug addiction and gambling addiction.
● Now, you are director of the Jeonju Alcohol Counseling Center. What are you doing there?
Jeonju Alcohol Counseling Center is a CBNU-attached organization. CBNU has been supporting the alcohol counseling center since it settled down in Jeollabuk-do. I have been taking charge as the center’s director for 10 years. The alcohol counseling center does varied work related with preventing, treating, and rehabilitating drinking problems in this area.
The center’s director controls all the work and, in particular, makes an effort to increase professionalism, because staff members are all professional and well trained people in regards to mental health issues.
● You were awarded the Award of Health and Welfare Minister. Please say your feelings.
’s alcohol problem is very serious. Korea has a relatively small number of drug addiction problems, but alcohol addiction’s prevalence rate is higher than in any other country. As a result, it is a representative problem of mental health in Korea. Even though problems that are related to drinking (for example, violence, crime, suicide, driving while intoxicated/DWI, unemployment, and poverty) increase, the government’s intervention in all the drinking problems is low. What is worse, the main intervention method for alcohol problems is just hospitalization for a long stretch of time in a psychiatric hospital. There is not any other solution. Even the cure rate for Korea’s alcoholics is less than 5%. Considering Korea’s national status, the nation and society’s management of alcohol problems is at a very inferior level. So I asserted that the government’s positive intervention in the societal drinking problem is necessary, and I developed an alcohol counseling center model. Thanks to that, three community alcohol counseling centers were made in 2000, and now 41 alcohol counseling centers have begun.
For me, it was the minimum intervention concerning the alcohol problem, but it contributed to spreading alcohol counseling centers. By spreading them, we can face the alcohol problem positively.
● What do you think about our society’s harmful effects related to drinking?
As shown recently by the ‘Incident of Na-young’, in our society, too many harmful effects exist: sexual abuse, domestic violence, child abuse, suicide, homelessness, poverty, etc. During the last several decades, I have met people who suffered from alcohol problems. Whenever I see them, I feel sadness. Despite their pains, our society’s alternatives are very insufficient. Recently I became aware that the reason for suicide that people feel is not depression, but alcohol. In other words, a person who drinks alcohol feels depressed and is impulsive, so the possibility of leading to suicide becomes higher. Besides suicide, bullying and school violence are related with alcohol problems. If children’s parents are alcoholics or serious drinkers, those children’s abuse rate is high. And those children are more likely to be school violence offenders and victims. Of course, not all drinking is bad, but we have to promote recognition toward drinking’s harmful effects.
● I want to hear your opinion about prevention of drinking’s harmful effects.
As we assigned areas where smoking is prohibited, we have to assign prohibited drinking areas. Also, from now on, I want the government to impose an alcohol tax for health promotion funding and to use that money for helping individuals and families who are suffering from damage and for preventing harmful effects caused by alcohol. Currently, all of the funds for alcohol prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation work are part of health promotion funding imposed on cigarettes.
● Please say some good words to CBNU students.
It is too easy for university students to drink alcohol. They think drinking is not a surprising occurrence, though their drinking volume and frequency are much higher. I frequently see that heavy drinking ruins some university students’ school lives, especially for freshmen. I want you to take care of your life through healthy and responsible drinking.
-Professor in the Department of Social Welfare, CBNU
-Director of Chonbuk Alcohol Counseling Center
-Mental Health Social Worker, Addiction Specialist
-Recipient of the Award of the Health and Welfare Minister
-Chairman of Korea Academy of Mental Health Social Work