Soju doesn’t waste time. It cuts straight to the point and gets you drunk very quickly. This is something I’ve known since I was 16, when I was an underage drinking Korean-American teen growing up in Queens. But this concept didn’t fully register
until I moved to Seoul for a short stint three years ago. It was my first night in South Korea’s capital city. I tagged along with my cousin and his crew of hard drinking buddies to hit the crowded streets that surround Kang-Nam Station. One of Seoul’s most frequented subway stops, the area was packed with bars filled with endless herds of partygoers who assemble there to partake in one of Korea’s national pastimes—getting sauced.
It was a sober hour in the early evening when our group hatched a plan for the drunken night ahead of us. Shortly before 7 PM, the sun was still out and the streets were teeming with thirsty imbibers, the cramped packs of competition in our race to grab a table at the closest bar. I took a moment to soak up my environment. For the first time, I was living in my parents’ homeland, where everyone looked like me and I was naturally supposed to blend in. This was the place where I was supposed to feel as one with my fellow Koreans, who I could connect with if we all sang Arirang
, in a made-for-TV moment in my imagination. But the reality was a lot of drunk-ass people roaming the streets.