[Letters] Unique Korean drinking culture
Around 10 p.m. on Friday night it is common to hear loud hip-hop music and people screaming in the west campus area at the University of Texas at Austin. There are so many parties going on in every single house. Most of the partygoers are Americans, playing drinking games and drinking hard.
“This is our way to drink and have fun at this party. Let’s chug!” said Kevin Schlosser, a 21-year-old sophomore, totally intoxicated.
At the same time, in Austin’s Koreatown, a group of Koreans rushed into Austin Karaoke. The karaoke bar is owned by a Korean, and it is not difficult to find the Korean liquor soju there.
“There are few foreigner customers, most customers are Korean directly from Korea,” said Josh Lee, working at the karaoke bar.
Korean students maintain the very unique drinking culture of their home country. Also, Korean students prefer drinking at Korean establishments.
“We usually have regular drinking meetings at the Korean bar on every Friday because we think it’s more quiet, peaceful and comfortable than other places,” said Chris Rhi, a member of the Korean Student Association at the University of Southern California.
There are several big differences between Koreans and Americans in terms of drinking. First, Korean culture is more closed than American. In other words Koreans usually hang out with only Koreans.
The big reason is age. Among Korean males, age is a very sensitive issue. For instance, they believe that people who are younger should show respect to their elders, and if someone doesn’t follow that “rule” he or she faces exclusion.
“When we hang out with people from other countries, they don’t really speak formally, even in English, therefore I can hardly accept their different attitude from a Korean perspective. Also, the way Americans drink is different, too. For example, our drinking culture is not like an active and energetic party. We just prefer talking and chilling,” said Bong-ho Choi, a 25-year-old student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Moreover, the purpose of drinking for Koreans is to strengthen bonds between friends.
On the other hand, Americans have a more open mind about parties. “Everyone here loves to meet new, random people. We are very welcoming to any people that come to our place as long as they are cool, so that we can have more fun,” said Joey Hinojosa, a 20-year-old college student at NYU.
Dr. Robert Oppenheim, an Asian studies professor at the University of Texas, said Koreans’ unique drinking culture has been developed over a very long time. Because of the effect of Confucianism, Korea’s drinking culture became peculiar, which could be weird to a foreigner.
“Yet, it’s their own culture from their ancestors, so no one can say it’s bad, and compared to American party culture there is no superior or inferior culture between the two,” he said.
Sohn Hyuk-won, Junior at the University of Texas