Earlier this month, the Ministry of Education issued a notice titled “Cooperation with the Law on the Compliance of the Liquor Tax by University Students”. In this letter sent to all universities in Korea, the Ministry requested officials to “prevent students from getting fined for violating liquor tax laws during the festival period”.
All universities in Korea, including KAIST, hold festivals during the month of May, in which musicians are invited to perform and students enjoy the performances while eating and drinking within campus borders. It is a tradition for student clubs and organizations to operate booths from which they sell snacks, food, and liquor. However, due to existing liquor tax laws, such practices had been illegal, and the ministry has decided to enforce it more strictly this year.
Under the liquor tax law, if liquor is sold without the necessary license, the offender can be sentenced up to three years in prison and charged up to 30 million KRW in fines. Furthermore, any unlicensed retail activity can also be fined up to nine million KRW. Student-operated bars or liquor booths during these festivals violate the liquor tax law. Batchim, the current Undergraduate Student Council (USC), and ImgEffect, the committee in charge of organizing the festival, held a meeting on May 4 with all the student organizations and clubs that had registered to operate drinking booths during this year’s festival to discuss future possibilities and rules.
In the statement issued by the USC on its Facebook page, it explained that the only organization holding a license for liquor sales is KAIST-GCoop, the Graduate Student Cooperative. The organization has filed the necessary documents to the North Daejeon Tax Office and will therefore be able to sell liquor during the festival.
However, all other organizations and clubs will be prohibited from doing so. If any of these organizations is reported for or discovered to be selling alcohol without permission, the USC or ImgEffect will suspend the operation of the booth, and the culprits will be investigated according to the necessary legal procedures.
Furthemore, an anonymous source claimed that an official from the National Tax Service has visited the offices of KAIST-GCoop, and that an official inspection will be carried out throughout the festival period.
Despite various ideas brought up by students, ImgEffect representatives were adamant that organizations will be strictly restricted to only selling food products. Attendees to the festival will be expected to purchase their liquor from outside of KAIST, the cafeteria in Tae Wul Gwan (N13), or from the liquor booth operated by KAIST-GCoop.
Students across the country have been expressing their frustration towards the Ministry of Education. They claimed that the liquor booths are an important part of university culture. Furthermore, clubs expressed concerns about their finances as the booths were an effective way of creating revenue. An ImgEffect representative for a KAIST club expressed, “[The measures] are necessary, but executed in a way that makes them seem unnecessary.”