It’s no secret that Korea has an out-of-control drinking culture. It’s the only place where I had to help an old woman key into her apartment because she couldn’t see straight. It’s where the most common English phrase heard is “one shot!” It’s where you often see people passed out on the sidewalk. And it’s the place where people, on average, have at least 2 shots of liquor a day. This is over twice that of any other country.
I imagine if it wasn’t for social or workplace pressure to drink the consumption would decrease by half. Koreans blow off steam, socialize and bond over a good night of drinking, but not everyone really wants to imbibe. However, the Confucian mentality takes over. It would be disrespectful to refuse a shot from an elder.
The wild drinking could also be a reaction to a country that up until 1982 had a mandatory midnight curfew. Today they might be in a stage of excessive freedom exercising.
It’s also easy to get caught up in the bright lights, singing rooms and cheap bottles of soju when you are out on the town. Korea is indeed a fun place for some rowdy soju drinking. Some of my best nights out have involved drinking too much with friends.
But Koreans are also finding other ways to have fun. As the country continues to grow economically and learns how to use leisure time, I imagine the drinking will start to taper off a bit. Some have already started to notice a shift in the drinking culture.
So if you are out tonight, take a shot for me; because one innocent night of “Sin and tonics” (gin and tonics with soju) has caused a permanent gag reflex at the sight of soju. It shall never pass my lips again.