THOUGH it’s not common knowledge for many outsiders, South Korea has a pretty serious drinking culture. There are three main types of alcohol available for under $2 per bottle: makju (beer), soju, and makgeolli. Here are the best ways to enjoy them in South Korea.
Unlike karaoke in Japan, where nearly every venue is family friendly save the excess drinking, noraebang in Korea is a coin toss. Seemingly normal establishments in big cities still have the option to use X-rated videos as you sing and to hire “helpers” if you want — help. However, it’s easy to still have an authentic Korean night with songs and booze: just refuse any extras.
2. With Korean BBQ
Soju is usually around 1 USD in markets, but the price soars to 3 USD in restaurants. The Korean spirit really pairs well with samgyupsal (fried bacon) and many fiery dishes — like intestines.
3. On Buses
If you’ve never ridden on a bus in South Korea, you should give it a try before the 2018 Olympics. The driver may be clinically insane and try to run over any ajumma (old woman) he pleases, but the seats are amazingly wide, cheap, and require no ID for purchase. Drinking is allowed on board, but being drunk and rowdy is definitely not – the driver will not hesitate to pull over and drop you off in the middle of nowhere at night if you disturb him. Fortunately, hiring a private bus with your friends in which you can pretty much do whatever you want is also easy.
4. Getting pulled into clubs
Note: this will only happen to Korean women, or foreign women who happen to look Korean. If you happen to be enjoying the nightlife in Honda some time, watch how male club promoters “encourage” women to come inside to drink and dance: by physically grabbing their wrist and dragging them inside — often somewhat against their will. You’d be in the mood for shots after that.
5. Makgeolli Bars
There are bars specifically catering to soju drinkers called soju-bang, but these are typically small and dingy.
Makgeolli is a milky white rice beverage with a sweet taste. Makgeolli bars, on the other hand, may require their patrons to pay for grossly overpriced food, but their settings give drinkers more of a classy feeling, despite the cheap alcohol. These are the Korean versions of wine bars.
6. North Korean Soju
At the DMZ on the South Korean side, there are a variety of souvenirs available for purchase. Though it’s questionable whether any of them actually came from the north, you can at least fool yourself into thinking you’ve purchased and gotten drunk on soju in the style of the DPRK.
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