“Oh my GOD, is that new Psy video REAL LIFE?!”

“Oh my GOD, is that new Psy video REAL LIFE?!”

I recently had a friend who lives in the States ask me, “Is that new Psy video with Snoop Dogg real?! Like, is that how you guys really drink all the time?”

Now, before I give you my response, if you haven’t seen the video please watch it first here.

Finished? Ok, now back to our original question. Is there any truth to the way Psy and Snoop Dogg go off on a whirlwind drinking spree somewhere in what I assume is the heart of Seoul? Do people really go that buck wild at restaurants, people fighting Mortal Kombat style while you get obliviously get hammered in the foreground? Are you going to wake up totally hungover wtih Snoop Dogg in your bathtub? No. Or…should I say, probably not.

While obviously some (most) of this video is purely cinematic, the drinking culture being illustrated is absolutely a real thing. South Korea is known for consuming COPIOUS amounts of alcohol, but it’s not because so many of it’s inhabitants are alcoholics, but because it’s so ingrained that at this point it’s not even glanced twice at.

Seeing people passed out in the street on a Tuesday is less common than a Saturday, but certainly more common than I’m used to seeing back home. We once went to a fairly nice little restaurant on a Wednesday night, and as three older gentlemen were walking out one literally just passed out on the floor. From a group of foreigners’ perspectives, this is absolutely shocking. Within seconds we’re wondering if we should call an ambulance, but his two friends (and the management) literally just let him lie there for a moment, assuring us that he was “OK!” and looking mildly annoyed. After a few minutes, his two friends merely lifted him between the two of them and hauled him out the door, laughing a little. Dinner everywhere else in the restaurant continued on as though someone had merely spilled their drink and it was now cleaned up. I was flabbergasted. It was a Wednesday!

Super popular beer here in South Korea called ‘Cass’

I have talked to students who can name more different types of alcohol than I have consumed in my entire life, college included, and I don’t mean middle schoolers. These are 5th and 6th graders who are telling me how to make “So-maek” (a combination of soju and beer), and assuring me that makgeolli (Korean wine) is “not that bad”.

Alcohol is also, more often than not, used as a social lubricant. You’re more relaxed when you drink, it’s how you get to know virtual strangers. It’s expected that co-workers will go out drinking with the boss, especially if you’re new to a job or the boss just decides they want to go out after work. We’ve been pulled into the “our boss wants to take us all out for dinner” more than once, but dinner is rarely just “dinner”. Koreans like to go in Rounds, and dinner is just Round 1. Round 2 varies. Most often it’s noraebang (karaoke), or it’s just another place to drink and THEN noraebang (you’re not going to escape noraebang). The most I’ve ever survived has been 3 rounds, and that was by the skin of my teeth, a wing and a prayer. Others go out all night and then go to work in the morning to which I both tip my hat and wonder at their resilience.



It’s also true that drinking here is pretty dang cheap. The tons of green bottles Snoop and Psy are seen downing shots of is soju and it’s roughly 1 US dollar at any grocery, convenience or random store everywhere. It can be a little more expensive at restaurants, but I’ve never seen it cost more than about 3 dollars. Beer is also relatively cheap, an average of 3 dollars a bottle for pretty low stuff like ‘Cass’ or ‘Cafri’. Of course, mixed drinks are going to vary depending on where you go, but, just like at home, there’s always a drink special to be had.

Now, back to that video. While the fight scenes and picking up ahjummas and dancing through the streets and breaking into a fairground(?) are not necessarily par for course here in South Korea, let’s talk about some truths you can gather from it. I can say that I’ve heard some pretty wild stories and seen some pretty interesting evenings take place with soju at the wheel. The noraebang that they end up at is totally legit, as well as the way he knocks the top off those soju bottles and they throw back those shots like there’s no tomorrow. The amount of beer bottles they’ve got at noraebang is only slightly above average. Psy devouring those noodles at the end of their night is something I’ve also partaken in more than once.

In short, the entire thing is as insane as it’s supposed to be, more satire than anything. Still, I’ve never seen anyone go as hard, or as often, as they do in South Korea, and that is a fact.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *