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.

Soju blackout
Photo: Blackout Korea

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.


  1. It’s so strange how one of the most intensely intoxicating nights, due to this ironically easy to consume toxin can actually be recalled the next day & years later. Or are those memories complete fiction? Hmmmm…….

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