Friday, July 24, 2009

Drinking In Korea

So, we ended up drinking almost every night of the trip. Most of us anyway. Daniel actually drank every night of the trip and the rest of us each had a night off at some point, either due to crazy aunts (us), tiredness (Branko), or a designated sober day (Adam).

Anyhow, about drinking in Korea.

First off, there are no laws against public alcohol consumption. So, you can drink on the streets, on the beach, wherever, plus alcohol is sold in convenience stores (like most places other than Ontario)

Korean beer (beer in Korean is Mek-ju) includes the brands Cass, Hite, and OB Lager. They're not particularly tasty, but they're not horrible and get the job done when cold. Really, they're no worse than any country's average cheap beer. There are also different flavours, such as Cass Red (which has a higher percentage) or Cass Lemon. You can read here the description of these beers from the "All You Need To Know About Korea" document my fiancee's agency gave her before her trip. The beer is fairly cheap and comes in cans, bottles, and large 1.5 L bottles.

Then there is Soju. Soju is dirt cheap. It's usually between 1000-5000 won ($1-$5) for the cheap stuff, but there are much better but more expensive brands as well. As Soju is 20%-40% alcohol (closer to $20 for the cheap stuff), you can see that drinking is very cheap. $2 will buy you two 500ml bottles of 20%, more than enough if you're looking to get drunk. Most however would say it tastes pretty bad. Definitely an acquired taste. I don't mind it too much though.

There are rules of drinking etiquette for Soju that Koreans follow when not out with close friends. I was introduced to them while drinking with the teachers during my last trip (described here).

Foreigners however will use Soju and mix it for anything. It basically replaces all other liquors due to its cheapness and availability. Rum and Coke? Nope...Soju and Coke! Vodka? Nope...Soju! Brandy to fortify your Sangria? Nope...Soju! Not to say that you can't get Rum and Vodka, and that's what you'll probably get at clubs, but Soju replaces (or at least supplements) it all at house parties.

The craziest though is So-mek, as foreigners jokingly call it, or Soju and beer mixed. It actually improves both! 3/4 Cass and 1/4 Soju makes a stronger, tastier beer. Adam was a particular fan of this, and after getting back to Canada, Branko lamented a few times about not having any cheap Soju to pour in his beer.

So there is your primer on how we drank in Korea.


  1. Funny now puritanical Ontario is about alcohol. I can't see the laws ever being relaxed in our lifetimes due to the powerful lobbying of groups like MADD, but I wonder why they don't have a stronger foothold in most other North American jurisdictions.

  2. Weird. Did you backpost that or something? It just showed up on the RSS feed today.

  3. Slightly, I never finished writing it before. Expect more Korean/Japanese back posts. Yay procrastination!