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South Korean consumers spend record amount of money on alcohol, tobacco

Cigarettes in a convenience store (Yonhap)
Cigarettes in a convenience store (Yonhap)
South Koreans’ spending on drinks and cigarettes reached a record high during the third quarter of last year, the Bank of Korea said Tuesday.

Households spent 4.3 trillion won ($3.96 billion) on liquor and cigarettes between July and September – a 6.2 percent increase from the same period a year prior, data from the country’s central bank revealed.

The figure marks the highest quarterly figure since records began at the central bank in 1970.

The year-on-year jump is also the highest since the 6.5 percent increase posted during the second quarter of 2016.

The bump in spending came at a time as the number of coronavirus cases saw a surge and stricter social distancing measures were introduced.

Economic slumps have led to an increase in alcohol and tobacco spending in the past.

The first and second quarters of 1997 saw liquor and cigarettes spending increase by 20 percent and 18.6 percent, respectively, in the runup to the Asian financial crisis.

According to data from Statistics Korea, South Korean households spent an average of 43,000 won on alcohol and tobacco during the same period, posting a 10.7 percent year-on-year increase.

Meanwhile, spending on entertainment including sports and recreation took a dip during the July-September period amid growing concerns over venues such as gyms, karaoke rooms, bars and nightclubs as points of mass virus transmission.

The figure stood at 12.39 trillion won, the lowest since the same quarter in 2012.

It was down 24.1 percent compared to the same time in 2019, the biggest gap since records began at the central bank.

Operations of coin-operated karaoke rooms were suspended intermittently between July and September after they emerged as routes of secondary and tertiary transmissions of the virus.

By Yim Hyun-su (