A few of us welcomed a new young colleague to Korea, with several bottles of soju. I was the instigator. We chatted and drank in the snow then staggered to our respective apartments. The new guy had been in the country for a few hours.
To the uninitiated, Jinro Soju is a uniquely special blend (as far as I know) of formaldehyde, antifreeze, water and flavours. It costs little over a dollar a bottle, and astonishlingly, while being consumed almost solely by South Koreans, it is reportedly the world’s largest selling brand of liquor.
In this video a young Korean man drinks seven bottles in under four minutes. He is probably no longer alive. Don’t try this.
Anyway… the next evening our newest colleague found me, looking a bit pale, and said with a weary smile that he’d never forget or forgive what I’d done to him.
He had been on a mission that morning. Without food, water or any idea where he was, he had walked down the hill, about a kilometer, and found a convenience store. Dehydrated, he’d fetched a bottle of water from the fridge and taken a deep drink, before immediately regurgitating it over the floor of the store. The refreshing-looking green bottle had not been water.
It seems everyone who’s done some K-time has a soju story or two, which too often end up something like this.
Having had a couple of soju misadventures myself, I felt bad for my part in my friend’s introduction to Korea. Actually, I felt worse that I found humour in his story. I’d like to think that by employing strategic psychological measures, I saved him from ever having to experience the wrath of soju again. I really don’t know. He doesn’t stay in touch.