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S. Korea lifts ban on ballpark beer vendors

All Headlines 10:48 April 21, 2016

SEOUL, April 21 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's tax office has decided to lift a controversial ban on beer vendors at baseball stadiums, officials said Thursday, apparently giving into an outcry from angry fans.

Starting Monday, "beer boys" were banned from carrying kegs of draft beer and pouring it into cups upon order from fans sitting in the stands under government guidelines that cite a negative impact on minors and a related law.

In a policy about-face, however, the National Tax Service (NTS) has decided to allow mobile sales of draft beer at baseball stadiums after close consultation with the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, according to the officials.

The law allows alcohol sales only at designated places like restaurants and bars but prohibits mobile sales. Baseball fans, however, can still buy canned beer at ballpark stores.

Officials said the ban was designed to reduce minors' access to alcohol at ballparks as vendors usually do not check buyers' IDs.

The NTS and the ministry had ordered the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) to abide by the law. The pro baseball governing body in turn banned beer vendors at stadiums in Seoul, Suwon, Daegu and Busan, where they had been permitted.

The abrupt ban outraged South Korean baseball fans, who usually enjoy a combination of fried chicken and beer called "chimaek" at ballparks.

Baseball is the most popular sport in South Korea, with more than 7 million people watching games every year. The country's professional baseball league was kicked off in 1982.

According to the officials, the NTS is also considering allowing the delivery service of chimaek.

The culture of chimaek -- a compound word of chicken and "maekju," the Korean word for beer -- has even spread overseas, especially to China, thanks to the popularity of Korean dramas and pop music.

In China, chimaek has been a craze among youths after a smash hit Korean drama "My Love from the Star" aired in 2014, as they want to mimic its heroine, who enjoyed drinking beer with fried chicken.

Last month, thousands of Chinese travelers held an outdoor chimaek party in the western port city of Incheon. They were served canned beer due to the current ban.

yskwak@yna.co.kr
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