Extra! Korea

May 26, 2009

Soju accounts for 90% of Korean alcohol industry

Filed under: drinking — extrakorea @ 8:18 am

A Joongang Daily article describes the collective sigh of relief after sales of soju recovered after brief downturn at the end of last year. Why?

Considering that soju accounts for 90 percent of the nation’s alcohol industry, it was a sign of trouble for distillers and breweries overall.

And over 50% of that is made by Jinro.

In case you don’t know, soju is a kind of spirit with about 20% alcohol. Though various rumors say that rice and/or sweet potatoes are used to make it, no one knows for sure what it’s made from.

May 19, 2009

Would you like a strawberry-flavored rice beer cocktail?

Filed under: drinking — extrakorea @ 1:23 pm

The Joongang Daily and Korea Herald have articles about makgeolli. Makgeolli is usually translated as “rice wine,” but, like Andrew Salmon, I think it’s more accurate to call it “rice beer,” since wines are made from fruit juices and beers are made from grains.

In order to appeal more to women, some drinking houses and retail markets have begun to offer fruit-flavored makgeolli and makgeolli cocktails. Flavors include strawberry, kiwi, pineapple, Japanese apricot, grape, raspberry, mulberry and pear. They cost about 20% more, which means approximately 1,200 won instead of 1,000 won. Before the current economic downturn, that basically amounted to 20 cents. Oooh, that’s really going to hurt in the pocketbook.

In my view, they would do well to try promoting dong-dong-ju. (The Home Plus near my home used to sell it, but not anymore.) It’s similar to makgeolli, but tastes noticeably better. I’ve asked many people what, exactly, the difference between dong-dong-ju and makgeolli is, but no one has been able to give me an adequate answer.

You can read a good article about some of the different kinds of Korean liquors here.

Wine cheaper, available in cans and cartons

Filed under: drinking, Uncategorized — extrakorea @ 10:41 am

As a result of direct importation by department stores and other major retailers, wine prices have dropped, in some cases, by up to 40 percent. Also, you can now enjoy your wine in a can or even in a waxed-paper carton.


More in this article.

May 17, 2009

Unfortunately, I was right about the intern teachers

Filed under: crime, drinking, education, gender equality, idiots — extrakorea @ 4:30 am

Korea Beat has an update on something I posted about before, and unfortunately, I was right about two things.

1. The teachers groped the students’ buttocks, and not their hips, as the Korea Times had mistranslated.

2. The teachers who committed this sexual harassment are going to get a light slap on the wrist.

The high school has said that though the teachers will continue in their positions, their wrongful actions make punishment unavoidable. The case came to light on the 27th of last month, but eventually a punishment committee will be convened and the case dealt with, the school said.

In other countries, these so-called “teachers” would be fired, lose their teaching licenses, be permanently blacklisted from teaching, and possibly face jail time.

May 2, 2009

Intern teachers forced to go to karaoke room, sexually harassed by senior teachers

Filed under: drinking, gender equality — extrakorea @ 2:21 pm

Three college students were interning at a school’s teaching program. The “singing room” described below is similar to a karaoke bar, except that it’s a small room. Also, keep in mind that Koreans often mistranslate “buttocks” into “hips.”

According to the Gyeonggi Provincial Office of Education, the four teachers invited the college students to an evening drinking outing on April 6. Later that night, they also suggested them to go to a singing room, which the college students rejected.

Then, the teachers told the college students that they wouldn’t get good grades on their on-the-job-training unless they’d join. At the singing room, the teachers sexually harassed the students that included touching their hips and hugging.

Three days after the incident, the students handed in a letter, detailing the incident and asking the male teachers to be punished.

An official with the provincial educational office said, “Most of the allegations proved to be true. The teachers involved will face stern punishment.”


“Will face stern punishment,” will they? Forgive my skepticism, but I’ll take a wait-and-see attitude, because they won’t be punished if their principal is like this guy.

April 1, 2009


Filed under: drinking — extrakorea @ 11:45 am

One good thing about the Chosun Ilbo newspaper is that sometimes, at the end of a new story, they’ll post titles, and links to, older-but-related stories.

Some 5 million Koreans between the age 18 to 65 were alcoholics according to 2001 figures by the Ministry of Health and Welfare. That was a massive 15.9 percent of the entire population, or 25.2 percent of men and 6.3 percent of women.

[ snip ]

According to a survey by the Samsung Economics Research Institute in 2004, as many as 23 percent of 4,231 office workers were alcoholics — men accounting for 23.7 percent and women for 14.7 percent respectively.


I remember when this story first came out in the newspapers. Even though it was basically saying that one out of four Korean men is an alcoholic, none of the expatriates at my school were surprised by this statistic. We were surprised by the fact that it was printed in an English-language newspaper.

A woman in her 30s in Gwangju recently died while on a so-called booze diet. She was under extreme pressure to lose weight, and after 10 days of only drinking alcohol for dinner while skipping breakfast and lunch, her system packed up.

Those on a liquor diet drink alcohol to lose weight, skipping breakfast and lunch and eating only side dishes with a drink for dinner. Some then throw up to ruin their appetite for the next morning. The method may appeal to those who want to lose weight fast, but it is perilous. “It’s such a dreadful way to lose weight,” says Prof. Cho Kyung-hwan of the Department of Family Medicine at Korea University’s Anam Hospital. “It should never be recommended, and no one should listen when it is.”


Very sad. Korean women are even more concerned about being thin than their western counterparts. Anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders, which used to not exist in Korea, are on the rise. A female, expatriate teacher at my school told me that the women’s bathrooms sometimes smell of vomit.

Many heavy drinkers enjoy talking about their “heroic” exploits while drunk, blackouts included. They consider such incidents nothing to be concerned about and just laugh about them. However, blackouts are a signal from your body that serious damage is being done to your brain. They indicate that you are a patient with an advanced alcohol problem and may be gearing up for alcoholic dementia. “When you drink, alcohol spreads throughout your body via the blood stream, and the brain, where much of the blood supply is concentrated, suffers the biggest damage,” says Prof. Namkoong Kee of Severance Hospital’s Department of Psychiatry. “It recovers at first, but repeated blackouts can do permanent damage to the brain, just as springs get less elastic over time.” Your short term memory still works while you suffer a blackout, and you can drive and even have sex under the condition. But the memories are not stored in your long-term memory. It is like working hard on a report on the computer but forgetting to click “save.”

Repeated blackouts bring about structural changes to the brain. With full-blown alcoholic dementia, the brain shrinks and the cerebral ventricle, an empty space in the middle of the brain, gets larger. Blackouts take place more frequently in proportion to the amount of alcohol you drink and how quickly you do it. Drinking a bottle of soju or traditional Korean distilled liquor in 30 minutes is more dangerous than drinking two over four hours.


In Korea, not remembering what happened last night because of excessive alcohol consumption is referred to as “your film being edited.” As the article alludes to, it’s basically laughed off and not taken seriously.

Alcohol is more harmful to teenagers than marijuana, a study suggests. Prof. Susan Tapert at the University of California, San Diego, said Thursday teenagers who report heavy alcohol use have reduced hippocampal volume compared with their nondrinking peers.

The teenagers classified as heavy drinkers consumed more than 20 glasses of alcohol a month. The study showed teenagers who were heavy drinkers for just one to two years developed abnormalities in their brains. The researchers said heavily drinking teenagers had just 85 percent the memory capacity of people who are not heavy drinkers.


I wish that all of my 18-year-old freshmen students would be made aware of this information before they start on their soju binges.

March 12, 2009

Minister warns against university binge drinking

Filed under: drinking, education — extrakorea @ 1:27 pm

First, some background information, courtesy of this Korea Times article:

Around this time every year, freshmen at universities allow themselves or are forced by seniors to drink heavily during initiation and orientation sessions. But the price they have to pay for the booze culture is costly ― and sometimes deadly.

This year was no exception, with two collegians already dead from excessive drinking bouts. Both students lost their footing and fell to their deaths after drinking bouts during orientation or welcoming gatherings ― one at a university in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, Wednesday, and the other in Incheon, Feb. 28. Two or three students drink themselves to death every year, according to statistics from the Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs.

So now, according to the Joongang Daily

Health and Welfare Minister Jeon Jae-hee recently sent letters to university student councils across the nation seeking help in preventing binge-drinking-related deaths, the Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs said in a release yesterday.

Jeon sent letters to 348 universities on Feb. 27 urging council members to avert further deaths of inebriated university students by launching campaigns promoting a healthier drinking environment on campus.

The Korea Herald adds:

In the letter, Jeon said the accidents that occur after heavy drinking not only affect the students’ families and their schools, but have an impact on the entire society.

“When looking at the personal aspect, the person might carry the bad drinking habit even later on in life, which is why it adds importance to have an appropriate drinking habit and culture in college,” she said.

“It’s critical for the student representative body to play an active role in promoting responsible drinking. I sincerely ask you to voluntarily participate in the movement to prevent serious accidents resulting from drinking.”

I see this as a positive step, for as someone who teaches at, and lives near, a Korean university, I have seen first-hand the kind of irresponsible excesses described in the articles above.

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