Saturday night and Sunday I spent with a group of mostly Koreans and some foreigners at a martial art excursion. This had not been my first such an outing with Koreans, so I expected there to be a lot of drinking and therefore prepared myself psychologically for it. As I am a teetotaller, I need such preparation. In general, teetotallers are a minority, but here in Korea with its extreme drinking culture teetotallers are almost non-existent.
|Sometimes they start 'em young.|
|A drunk Korean passing out in public.|
Not that uncommon a sight, actually.
There are some Korean subcultures that do not drink, whom are part of so-called sectarian faiths such as Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Mormons. Because these Koreans are part of their own communities they at least have a social life. Koreans who do not belong to such religious persuasions are, as I mentioned already, ostracised and struggle to make friends. Even Koreans from these religious groups have a hard time, particularly in their work place. It is customary for colleagues to go drinking together after work, and refusing to do so, particularly if one's senior or boss suggested the drinking, is considered terribly rude, and even disrespectful. In that sense, not drinking could sometimes cost you your job.
|Bottles of soju -- Korea's most famous|
alcohol comparable to vodka.
|Two older Korean friends passed out on the street|
together after a night of heavy drinking. Or, at least,
that's my assumption of this picture.
There is a small movement amongst upper class Koreans to drink wine. Since whine is so expensive, and since it is enjoyed slowly, wine drinkers tend to drink far less. Wine drinking in Korea is in many cases just for pompous show, like wearing a very expensive name brand suit, and going to art exhibits just for the pretence of appreciating art, but at least wine drinking is giving a way out to some Koreans who would like to socialise without getting completely knackered.
|Soju advertisements usually involve a|
sexy Korean woman, showing lots of skin
and curves, that enjoys to drink and party.
There is undeniably a sexual connection
made with drinking soju.
|Luckily for this girl, Korea|
is relatively safe.
So why don't I drink alcahol? There are a couple of reasons really. The first reason I do not drink is as a statement. It is for the same reason I do not smoke. My father did. He smoked and it made him stink and I swore that I would not be like him. There was also a patch during which he drank and became aggressive. I remember clearly how my brother and I would hide (and sometimes throw away) his whiskey because of how we hated the way it changed his personality. It took him a while, but he eventually realised the negative impact his drinking had on us, so he stopped excessive drinking. I respect him for caring enough for us to choose us over the bottle. Nonetheless, the negative associations with alcohol was set, so I also swore not to be like my father, who continued to drink socially. Second, many people on my maternal side of the family are alcoholics. In particular my uncles, one of them my godfather whom I always looked up to. I saw how the drink had destroyed both their lives and their families and it disgusted me. It also came as a revelation to me that since I take after my mother's side of the family, I probably have a predisposition towards becoming an alcoholic myself. I know I have an addictive personality, so I'm not taking any chances. Later, when I became a Christian and accepted the scripture that says our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and that therefore healthy living is part of our act of worship, I decided to live a healthy life style. This is in part the reason why I'm a (flexible) vegetarian, why I avoid frequent consumption of caffeine, why I exercise even though I often do not feel like it. Finally, I honestly do not like the taste of alcohol. I once tried to drink Amarula Cream, thinking that I'd at least enjoy the taste since a like fruity, creamy stuff. I do like cherry liqueur dark chocolates after all. Regardless, I had to boil the Amarula Cream for quite some time to get rid of the alcohol taste. Last year I was in a hotel by myself and there was beer in the bar fridge. Being alone I thought I'd just try it a bit--I'm far from anybody who knows me, nobody would know. I took maybe two sips and can still honestly say that I really dislike the taste. If it is indeed an acquired taste, it is a taste I'd rather not acquire.
I'm not against people temperately consuming alcohol. There are many people who seem able to enjoy it in moderation only. Although I do not, many of my friends enjoy a drink on occasion. I am, however, against drunkenness and am definitely against Korea's excessive drinking culture. I strongly believe that Korea would be much better off without this element in its society. It is complete nonsense that a person cannot have fun without alcohol, that one cannot be sociable without drinking. And if it is the case for some timid people who needs the bravado of the bottle, the severe price Korea and its families are paying because of alcohol is not worth it.
In this post I focussed on a very negative aspect of Korea, sure. There are, however, many other positive things about Korea otherwise I would not have lived here for nearly five years now. Korea is cool.