Sunday, 27 July 2008


Listen: Koreans like to drink. The first night I was here I went for a walk down the road and back, and stepped over several guys in suits passed out on steps. This was a Sunday. After a 80 hour week at the office though you'd want to pour as much as you could down your neck. That was in Suyu, and while Junggye has less of that, there's still a very tangible culture here. Despite this the bars, in this area at least are pretty thin on the ground and never packed, which in my books is a good thing.

But this is the thing: you can buy alcohol 24 hours a day from any convenience store, and to give you an idea of their prevalence, there are at least 10 of them within a five minute walk of my apartment, open all day every day. The majority of these stores have tables and chairs outside, inviting you to buy a few bottles and enjoy them bathed in the neon lights of the store. The selling point is that you can get a 1.6 litre bottle of Cass or Hite for about £2.50. And soju is even cheaper. I've resisted going down the soju route so far, though. I've seen the consequences. Plus it tastes like toilet duck. I just read this on wikipedia:
More than 3 billion bottles were consumed in South Korea in 2004.[3] In 2006, it was estimated that the average adult Korean (older than 20) had consumed 90 bottles of soju during that year, with each bottle equivalent to seven shots.
And this sounds like suicide:
Despite tradition, soju is not always consumed in unmixed form. A poktanju (lit: "bomb drink,") consists of a shot glass of soju dropped into a pint of draft beer (like a boilermaker) and is drunk quickly. The reverse equivalent, a shot glass of draft beer dropped into a pint of soju, is called suso poktanju (lit: "hydrogen bomb drink").

Nowon is a short bus/taxi ride away and has a lot more going on. Though when I went last night with my coworker Sean with the intention of finding a club, we wandered haphazardly and fruitlessly around for a while before getting turned away from a place because we weren't Korean. Rather than making the point that that's a bit racist, we just went home. It would seem that the GI-saturated meatfest that is Itaewon is the top choice for a proper night out. Not that I'm much of a clubber anyway, as you probably know, but you crave the bright lights once in a while.

So, OK, wrap this up now. Conclusion: I drink more here than I'm used to. Had a couple of stinking hangovers at first, lost whole days after getting in at 6am and it really can't be beneficial to my health or my skin, but, interestingly, I think I've lost weight. Work that one out.

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