What is soju Korean liquor

Drinking culture in Korea

Koreans are very fond of drinking alcohol. Korea therefore has a unique drinking culture. In this article I want to tell about this drinking culture in Korea.

You could say Korea is the Ireland of Asia.

There are also many alcohol and drink vocabulary that foreigners do not learn in the language school. In this article, you will learn all about drinking.

What kind of alcohol do Koreans drink?

We mostly drink soju (소주), maekju (맥주) or somaek (소맥) and sometimes makgeolli (막걸리). Let me explain these four most popular Korean drinks to you.

  1. Soju (소주)

Soju is a typical Korean liquor and the most popular alcohol, so Soju is also known as the national drink.

Soju has around 16-20% alcohol. Before the 1990s, soju was more than 25% alcohol, but it's getting weaker and weaker.
Soju always needs to be refrigerated, so it is always put in the refrigerator.
The glasses for soju are small.
Usually we don't drink soju alone, but mostly with someone.

I like soju more than beer, but since I've lived in Salzburg, I haven't drink soju at all because I don't want to drink alone. When you drink soju alone, it looks like you're sad or having problems.

  1. Maekju (맥주)

We also like to drink beer. Beer is called Maekju in Korean.

I think Korean beer is lighter than European beer. There are fewer different types of beer in Korea than in Europe.
Until ten years ago we could only drink European beer in special bars and it was expensive, but now we can also buy it in the supermarket.

  1. Somaek (소맥)

Somaek is Soju and Maekju. To make somaek, you simply mix soju and maekju, so you can mix it yourself in the restaurant and at home. There is no menu for Somaek in the restaurant or bar. Soju and Maekju in a ratio of 2: 8 or 3: 7 are the most delicious.

I think the taste of Somaek is better than Soju or Maekju, but the next day you have a bad hangover because it's a Poktanju (폭탄주).

Poktanju (폭탄주) literally means Poktan bomb, Ju alcohol, so bomb alcohol. A mixture of different alcohols is called Poktanju.

You can watch a video of Somaek Domino here.

Why is it called Poktanju?

I'm not sure why, but here's what I appreciate.

When we make poktanju, we put a small glass of soju in the beer glass. It looks like a bomb is falling and when you drink poktanju your head hurts like you've been hit by a bomb.

  1. Makgeolli (막걸리)

Makgeolli is a traditional alcohol and is made from rice, so it's called rice wine.

I can still remember my mother making makgeolli herself at home. After she did it, she ate the remaining rice from the makgeolli. So makgeolli is white as milk and we drink it from a bowl, not a glass.

There is also dongdongju (동동주), which is a similar alcohol to makgeolli and has a few grains of rice in it.

When Koreans drink alcohol, they eat Anju (안주)

Koreans usually drink soju with their meals. If we drink alcohol while eating, we call it banju (반주 飯 酒). No matter if it is Soju, Maekju or Makgeolli.

There are certain dishes that go well with soju, maekju or makgeolli.
For example, grilled meat (삼겹살, 갈비) and stew (찌개, 탕) go well with soju, and dried fish, nuts, fried chicken (후라이드 치킨) and sausages go well with maekju.

You've heard of Korean Chimaek (치맥) before. Chimaek (치맥) is Chicken (킨) and Maekju (주). Korean fried chicken is special.

Normal fried chicken is very crispy and there is also spicy chicken with chili sauce or with garlic or with soy sauce. There are many bars that only prepare fried chicken (치킨 집) and also deliver it to your home with Maekju on tap (생맥주).

Click on the link from Chimaek.

Korean pancakes, called pajeon (파전), go well with makgeolli.
I don't know why, but we say if it rains we want Pajeon with Makgeolli.
It often rains in Salzburg. I always miss Pajeon with Makgeolli.

Click on the link from Makgeolli & Pajeon.

While eating we drink banju and after dinner we continue to the bar.
We still order food in the bar because we always drink alcohol with food.

If you can't or don't want to drink, you can still go to the bar with others who want to drink. You can also just eat in the bar without drinking.

The food for alcohol in the bar is called Anju (안주). Anju is mostly simpler and smaller than real food, but it can also be a real dish. We have to order Anju in the bar. It's like you have to order drinks when you eat in a restaurant. However, we do not have to order drinks with the meal in the restaurant.

Nowadays, there are many European style bars (바) in Korea. You may not have to order an Anju there. However, you have to order Anju in a Korean bar (술집).

I think if you eat enough while drinking, you won't get drunk easily. It's good for the stomach, isn't it?

What is the name of Prost in Korean?

Prost is called Geonbae (건배), but right now young people say Zzan (짠) instead of Geonbae (건배). Zzan (짠) is actually the sound when the glasses are knocked.

Drinking culture in Korea

Koreans call the drinking etiquette for alcohol Judo (주도 酒 道) in Korean. Ju is alcohol and Do is etiquette. So how to be polite when drinking with someone else. In Korea, judo does not mean the Japanese martial arts of the same name, judo (유도 柔道).

Korean judo is also very important because it is related to politeness.

The Korean drinking etiquette you need to know

General Judo in Korea

  1. After the cheers Geonbae or Zzan you have to do one-shot (원샷). One-Shot means you have to drink a glass of alcohol at once. After the one-shot, you sometimes have to hold your glass with the opening facing down over your head to prove that it is really drunk.
    Soju's glass is small, but the beer glass is big. How can you drink Maekju on ex?
    Most can't, but at least you have to show that you've tried.
  1. When someone has poured you alcohol, you have to raise your glass. A beer glass is big and difficult to lift, so you can only tilt it a little.
    If you missed the timing to lift your glass, at least you have to touch the glass with your hand and hold it until the glass is full.
  1. When your counterpart's glass is empty, you should pour him alcohol.

  2. It is rude to pour yourself alcohol. You have to wait for someone to pour you. You can say it directly or just lift your glass, then you can tell that you want more.
    There is a joke in Korea that if you pour yourself alcohol, you will stay single forever.

  3. If someone still has alcohol in their glass, they have to drink it before you pour more.

Judo when you drink with a respectful person

  1. When you pour or receive alcohol, you should always hold the glass with both hands. It's rude with one hand, but there's another reason too.
    Our traditional Hanbok (한복) is not tight, so the sleeves are also wide. Therefore, one had to hold the sleeves of the other arm with one hand to avoid touching food or alcohol.
    If the respected person is pouring you alcohol who is sitting far away, you have to get up and hold the glass out to him.
  1. During the toast, you should hold your glass with both hands and hold it lower than the person's glass and toast it.

  2. After the toast, you should turn slightly away from the person opposite and drink while still holding the glass with both hands.

  3. As I said, you should always do a one-shot, especially if the respected person is doing a one-shot or pouring you.

  4. When drinking with work colleagues, the oldest person, e.g. the boss, usually gives another person his own glass and pours it. The person then has to take a one-shot before returning the glass and pouring it again. This is a sign that the boss trusts that other person. He can go on with everyone else and do a round with it. (술잔 을 돌리다)

Alcohol and Social Compulsions in Korea

As I mentioned at the beginning, Koreans like to drink and drink often. However, you don't always drink because you want to drink. The drinking culture in Korea is often determined by social constraints.

Koreans usually drink alcohol at dinner. This is the first Il Cha (1 차).
After dinner we go to the bar. This is the second I Cha (2 차).
Then we go to karaoke Noraebang (노래방) and sing, but of course we keep drinking. This is the third Sam Cha (3 차). Eating, drinking, Noraebang to Sam Cha (3 차) are fundamental.
If we go anywhere to drink more alcohol, then we will continue with the numbers Sa Cha (4 차), O Cha (5 차), Yuk Cha (6 차) and so on.

Although I don't want to, sometimes I have to drink because I belong or want to belong to this social group.

Thank God! I like drinking!

At the University

In Korea, students have their own unique culture.I'll tell you about it later in another article.

When you become a freshman at university, you are first greeted with a welcome meeting. It's a party that students who have been studying at the university for several years prepare for new students.

They usually spend a night together in a boarding house and they drink a lot.

If the older students pour alcohol for the new students, the younger students must definitely drink. It has changed a lot now, but sometimes there were students who died of alcohol poisoning in the process.

After every semester there is a party to celebrate the end of the semester, then they drink a lot too. So there are lots of parties and trips, lots of options for drinking. They also play games while drinking. Whoever loses must drink alcohol as a punishment. The penalty is of course one-shot!

Check out the video to see what I mean.

It's also a community culture at the university. We drink, talk and discuss with other students. Then we have a community and it is important that we belong to the community.

As a student, I also drank a lot and often. The community was important to me too, but I just liked alcohol and was able to drink a lot back then. Haha! 🙂

In Korea, you can see that there are many restaurants, cafes and bars around the universities.

There have been many problems in the past because students didn't study, they just drank and partied. The university credit system has changed for 20 years and due to economic difficulties, students are currently learning a lot. Otherwise they won't find a good job.

Alcohol after work

Sometimes after work we have hoishik (회식 會 食). Hoishik means eating together with colleagues after work, but not just eating, but also drinking.

Hoishik is more about drinking than eating. As I said, at university the younger students should drink when the older ask. At work it is of course even more so! It is mostly forced.

For the old generation, work or the company is more important than their family.

If you didn't go to hoishik in the past, you could get into trouble because you didn't seem to want to belong to the community. It was bad for your career.

However, the younger generation is against it. They think hoishik is an extension of work.

Hoishik is also about 1, 2, 3 Cha and even though you have a bad hangover the next day, you have to get back to work on time and work well as if nothing had happened. I received recognition for that. Hihi!

However, larger companies have limited hoishik to 1 cha these days. The reason is to prevent sexual harassment of employees.

The Hoishik culture was a problem, so a lot has changed.

What do Koreans eat for hangovers?

After drinking, you have a hangover the next day. Koreans eat Haejangguk (해장국) for breakfast against the hangover.
Haejang (해장 解 酲) means to relieve the hangover and Guk (국) is a soup.
Haejangguk (해장국) is a soup that relieves the hangover.
Kongnamulguk (콩나물 국) and Bugeoguk (북어 국) are well-known Haejangguk (해장국) dishes.
Kongnamul (콩나물) are bean sprouts, but it's different from normal bean sprouts. Kongnamulguk is a bean sprout soup.

Click on the link from Kongnamulguk.

Bugeo (북어) is dried fish, Pacific pollack, so Bugeoguk (북어 국) is a soup made with dried fish pollack.

Click the link from Bugeoguk.

Why are Kongnamulguk and Bugeoguk good against hangovers?

Aspartic acid and arginine in bean sprouts as well as many methionines and amino acids in pollack contribute to the breakdown of acetaldehyde in alcohol.

But I don't know what that is.
In my experience I say honestly! I also liked alcohol and drank a lot, so I had many hangovers. So I tried different soups, but these two Kongnamulguk and Bugeoguk were really good for hangover breakfasts. With these I could calm my stomach.

The hangover drinks

Since 1992 there have been drinks against hangover Shukchuihaesoje (숙취 해소 제) in Korea.
A company invented the drink "Conditon (컨디션)’ ", which you drink before the hoishik or before drinking alcohol to reduce the hangover.

You can watch an advertisement for "Conditon".

At the time, this drink caused a sensation.
Office workers appear in the advertising. Such strange drinks only come out because of the Korean drinking culture or Hoishik culture.

A Korean American tried the drink in Korea and copied it in the US. They have been around in America since 2016 and they generate a lot of sales.

There are now many different types of drinks and you can easily buy them in the convenience store (편의점), which is open 24 hours and offers simple food.

Do you also want to experience the Korean drinking culture?
그럼, 우리 같이 한 잔 할까요? That's what I'm an expert on! 🙂

한 잔 하다 literally means to drink a glass of alcohol. But that doesn't just mean drinking a glass, it also means drinking alcohol in general.
우리 같이 한 잔 할까요? Do we want to drink alcohol together?

Important phrases and vocabulary:

주도 (酒 道) Drinking label
술 alcohol
소주 Soju
맥주 Maekju
소맥 Somaek (Soju + Maekju)
막걸리 rice wine
폭탄주 Bomb alcohol, mixed alcohol
안주 Food for drinking
반주 Alcohol while eating
건배, 짠 cheers
후라이드 치킨 Fried Chicken
양념 치킨 Fried chicken with chili sauce
마늘 치킨 Fried chicken with garlic
간장 치킨 Fride Chicken with soy sauce
치맥 Chicken and Maekju
생맥주 draft beer
파전 pancakes
집 house
술집 liquor house, ordinary bar
바 modern and western bar
원샷 One-shot, drink up at once, drink straight away
숙취 hangover
숙취 가 있다 / 없다 have / no hangover
숙취 해소 제 Hangover drinks
해장 relieving the hangover
해장 하다 relieve the hangover
술 과 궁합 이 맞는 음식 Food that goes well with the alcohol
술잔 을 돌리다 give my glass to others and pour alcohol
회식 eating together after work
회식 하다 Verb from Hoishik
편의점 Convenience Store
애주가 the person who likes to drink alcohol
과음 하다 drink a lot of alcohol
토하다 throw up
오바이트 하다 originally comes from the English word “overeat’ ’or“ overheat ’’, but it means to pass. We call these words Conglish (Korean + English)