Thursday, September 5, 2013

Go home Korea, yer drunk!

Update: A friend of mine has told me that the stereotype is not so much about pure consumption as it is about holding the alcohol. That's a valid point, but having been Asian for pretty much most of my life, I can say that there is also the stereotype that Asians are just too square and straight to drink, or at least as much as their Western counterparts (though some Asian frats seem to be working way too aggressively to fight this assumption).

But let's address my friend's understanding of the stereotype. Is is true? Hmm... Man, I really can't come up with a good rebuttal. With that much consumption yet with so little stomach for it, no wonder Korea is a failed state that hasn't accomplished anything of note in terms of economy, academics, politics, arts, athletics, pop culture, etc. 

Oh wait...   


One of the many snide and catty stereotypes about Asians is that we can't drink. We also can't drive (by going too SLOW, not too fast), can't play sports, can't be leaders, have small you-know-whats... Why, it's almost as if it's been a long-held Orientalist effort to make Asia seem inherently helpless, infantile, and effeminate! Not that there's anything inherently wrong with being considered feminine, except that in a patriarchal world, it unfairly and automatically diminishes one's status and power.

Anyway, getting back to the article's main topic, there's that stereotype about Asians and drinking. But how accurate is that, really? A recent WHO study showed that Korea is the 11th drunkest country in the world. Sure, it's not on the podium, but that means there are about 200 countries that it can drink under the table.

Moreover, if you take a closer look at the stats, it shows that Korea's shwastedness comes almost exclusively through consumption of spirits, whereas most of the other boozed nations are downing beer and wine, which are considerably weaker (unless you're talking about one of those mysterious Eastern European beers). And by spirits, I assume that Koreans are mostly drinking soju (which is 20% ABV).

In fact, in terms of spirits consumption, Korea leads the world with 9.57 litres per capita per year. Just to compare, Russia consumes 6.88 litres per capita per year, though they're probably drinking 80-proof vodka and tragically lowering their life expectancy in the process. Seriously, Russian men are only expected to live to age 60, which is almost 20 years fewer than American men! (

So if Person A is drinking a bit more in terms of litres than Person B, but almost all of Person B's consumption is from spirits while Person A is mostly drinking beer and wine, who's gonna be the more embarrassing lush at the wedding? Probably Person B, right?

I don't know too much about Korean drinking culture because by the time I went there, I was kind of past the age when I thought drinking made you supercool. But from my experience, Koreans don't really drink for pleasure. We don't sit around a warm fireplace sipping wine or brandy as we talk about the good old times. No, the pounding of soju glasses usually begins at dinner and continues all through the night until everyone's passed out or puking in the bathroom of the 3rd karaoke lounge we've hit up at 3am.

Actually, that's not entirely true. People go to makgeolli bars all the time, especially nowadays, and they're usually not there to get smashed because you'd have to drink A LOT of makgeolli to do that. I've actually never gotten drunk off of it, but I hear it's a monumentally horrible experience.

What's the point of this article? I'm not too sure, since a country's drunkenness is nothing to be proud of. I guess it's just fun to poke holes in stereotypes.

No comments :

Post a Comment