Human rights for nondrinkersFilmmaker Hong Sang-soo is known for his portrayal of hypocritical, intellectual men. His movies include many drinking scenes, which mostly begin as a grand discussion over drinks, followed by a complex quarrel. They usually end with men hitting on women.
Hong’s movies are an exploration of human nature through alcohol. When Hong prepares for a film, he has a drinking bout with his cast and crew. The director, actors and the staff approach the essence of his film by revealing their drunken selves.
The director’s international fans became curious about the green bottle that never fails to appear in Hong’s films. The iconic bottle is soju, a distilled Korean spirit.
Filmmakers from overseas visiting the Busan International Film Festival finally got to see the green bottle in person, and interestingly, Korea’s drinking culture has largely contributed to the rise of the festival. Foreign visitors were captivated by the pleasant, sincere drinking parties at the bar tents in Haeundae, a beach town in Busan, night after night. The drinking bouts created a solid network for the directors.
Psy’s new music video “Hangover” also deals with Korea’s drinking culture. The bomb-cocktail technique, karaoke and “love shot” - drinking by locking arms - are familiar drinking scenes in Korea.
Snoop Dogg features in “Hangover,” opening soju bottles with Psy in the video. While critics are concerned that it ridicules Korean drinking culture, this is nonsense. We can’t expect Psy, the symbol of subculture, to present a healthy drinking culture.
“I got a cue from my foreign friends, who find Korean drinking culture amusing,” said Psy.
International fans also find it funny. Psy and Snoop Dogg appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live and went to a karaoke bar with the host to sing their favorite songs.
Now that the exploration of Korea’s drinking culture has moved to the global stage, we need to pay attention to those who don’t drink, including myself. Nondrinkers are a true minority in our society. I’ve gotten so many comments for not drinking. “If you don’t drink, you don’t know life.” “Women should drink, too.” “How can you be a reporter if you are not drinking?” I wondered why people have no sympathy and consideration for my inability to drink. I have made efforts to keep up with people drinking in order not to ruin the party.
Even the National Human Rights Commission does not handle the human rights of nondrinkers. Maybe I need a drink after all.
*The author is a culture and sports news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo
JoongAng Ilbo, June 14, Page 31
by YANG SUNG-HEE