Waygook in Korea
AA meetings done with style
by Corry Day
I have now survived two months of living in the land of the morning calm. I have completely adapted to many of the things that only a short time ago would leave me awestruck. But one thing I still not wrap my mind around is how the hell this country can drink so much! There are no Alcoholics Anonymous meetings here, but if there were…they would be called “Alcoholics Abound!”
Alcohol is woven into the fabric of this society. Just look at the five most popular free-time activities:
1. Drinking soju and beer.
2. Eating food and drinking soju and beer.
3. Singing and drinking soju and beer.
4. Sunday picnic in the park and drinking soju and beer.
5. Hiking up to the top of a mountain…and then drinking soju (not beer because it is too heavy to carry up).
The fifth activity is fun to observe because it is followed by the always-exciting number six activity: trying to get down the mountain drunk without killing or maiming yourself. Number six activity is successful only about 70 per cent of the time, so many Monday mornings you can witness businessmen proudly wearing their mystery bruises and black eyes like battle scars from their weekend wars with the bottle.
I know right now you are probably thinking, “Ah, he is exaggerating.” But, I shit you not. This is a country in which all people, old and young, male and female, consume alcohol like freshmen in college. Almost every Sunday on the subway you can witness three or four old “attechaes” (respective Korean term for old man), drunk and wrestling with each other like 13-year-old boys. I swear to God I saw one guy give his passed-out buddy a wedgie until he woke up and rolled off the bench and onto the floor, and these guys were 85 years old . . . at least! Back home in Canada, old men their age would be mumbling to themselves while eating strained peas and having their diaper changed . . . so maybe we should investigate this life–long drinking idea a little further!
But, those are just the social drinkers of Korea. The Korean businessman is the true master of the sprits. He has the honor and the privilege of being able to drink both as a hobby and as a profession. Most businessmen have to . . . sorry . . . get to “entertain” possible clients 3 to 4 nights during the week. This entertainment takes place at “room salons.” Room salons are establishments that cater to the whims and desires of men . . . so basically they supply women and booze, the two things that Korean men . . . ok . . . all men of the world enjoy the most. All business decisions, or at least any serious business decisions made in Korea are affected by the ability of the two parties involved to enjoy each other’s company while getting extremely loaded. So basically it is like a one-nightstand in Canada…if you can get each other drunk enough and fast enough without making a total fool of yourself in the other party’s eyes . . . you will score! The only difference is that in a room salon, the actual sex part is already included in the bill, or at least that’s what everyone has told me. My mother told me to stay away from places like that, and I always listen to my mommy!