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Drinking and Drunkenness in Korea

May 9, 2013



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Woohoo! A fun question to talk about, not necessarily because we’re raging alcoholics and want to talk about how hammered we get (in fact, we’re quite responsible), but because we’re very fascinated with the drinking culture here in Korea as opposed to what we’ve experienced back in Canada.

In a nutshell, we’ve seen a lot more drinking in Korea than what we’re used to in Canada. Maybe we’re wrong, and maybe Canadians drink an absurd amount and we just didn’t move in those circles, but from what we remember, alcohol’s expensive. Damned expensive. Bars kick you out if you’re drunk and are liable if you do something from getting too drunk at their bar. There’s no public consumption of alcohol. In fact, last time we were in Canada we tried buying a bottle of wine. I had my ID on me. Martina didn’t. They wouldn’t sell me the bottle, because Martina might be a minor and they’d be responsible if they sold alcohol to someone in the company of a minor. What the flipping farts is that all about?

In Korea, though, soju’s cheap. Beer’s cheap. You can get drunker than you humanly should be for under 10 bucks if you want. You can walk around with alcohol. They sell alcohol to you so you can walk around with it. Get too drunk in their restaurant? No biggie, from what we’ve seen.

Also, the big issue with drinking in Canada is that you have to drive to bars most of the time, because Canada’s so godforsakingly huge that you have to drive to get ANYWHERE. In Korea, though, everything’s so densely packed. You can walk to a bar most of the time, or you can take a cheap taxi if you’re too far away, while taxis in Canada are prohibitively expensive.

So, probably because Canada has these things going against them for alcohol consumption, it seems like there’s a lot more drinking going on here. I’ve never seen so many drunk people before in my life. I’ve never seen so many people passed out in the streets from being drunk. People sleeping on benches or outside of restaurants, passed out on subways. I’ve never seen so many people vomiting in public. I don’t want to give off the impression that the streets are slaloms of barf piles, but I can really say that there’s a lot more public vomit than what I’ve seen before.

You know, we just watched a program about Amsterdam yesterday, and how tourists go there, often, to smoke weed, and it’s been advertised well as a druggie haven. Why not advertise Korea as a drinking haven? Come to Korea to get drunk! No, wait: that might not be a good idea…

On a more fun note, here are some cool drinking games that we sometimes play in Korea:

1) Baskin Robbins 31:

You know how to count, right? Then you should know how to play! Here’s what you do:
The person who starts the game counts either 1, 1-2, or 1-2-3. The idea is that, on your turn, you count anywhere from 1 to three numbers. So, if the first person counts 1-2, the next person can count 3-4-5, and the person afterwards can count 6, afterwards, 7-8.

It sounds dumb, I know, but there’s a point to this. Eventually, you get close to the number 31. Whoever is forced to count to that number loses and had to drink. So, the end of the game usually looks like this:


Get it? Count anywhere from 1-3 sequential numbers on your turn. The person who counts 31 loses and has to drink.

2) Sam Yook Goo (in English, 3-6-9)

Another counting game here (yay math!). Basic rule of the game is you have to keep the counting going, but every time there’s either a three, six, or nine, you have to clap according to how many of those digits there are in the number. So, a round would go like this:


Get it? Once you get to the 30s, though, things are more complicated:

clap clap (because that number was 33, see?)

Whoever messes up loses and has to drink YAHOO!

High Low

Is that what it’s called?

Very basic but simple game. In the cap of your soju bottle is a number between one and fifty. The person holding the cap tells someone to guess the number, and tell the guesser if it’s higher or lower. Then the next person in the circle guesses. Whoever guesses right wins, and can make someone else at the table drink. Woohoo!

Yeah! So that’s it for now, I guess. I’d write more but I’m drunk! Ha, no, not drunk. Can’t drink on this diet we’re on before Singapore! Anyhow, if there are any other games you can think of, let us know! There are some that we don’t know the rules of, like this odd game where you clap and move your head and say a fruit according to the number that was dictated to you…or something. It’s mind-bottling. I’ve seen it done a few times but every time I just give up.



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