Posted on October 19, 2021
The drinking age in Korea is 20 years old. This means that drinking alcohol is not allowed before the age of 20, and anyone who does so may be arrested or fined under Korean law. For those under 20 years old or without a Korean ID, drinking may be difficult as many places do not allow this. Drinking alcohol outside of bars and clubs with friends is also illegal so you must stick to drinking at home or attending events where drinks are provided freely.
For those who want the legal facts: it’s against the law to provide alcoholic beverages to anyone under the age of 20 years old, possess alcohol when underage (even inside one’s own car), buy/attempt to purchase alcohol while underage or drink on any street which prohibits drinking. Those drinking and driving or drinking in public can also be arrested.
Here, we will also talk about what you need to know about drinking in Korea!
Etiquette for drinking in Korea
In drinking culture here in Korea it is considered polite to pour drinks for others before drinking yourself. This means that you should never fill your own glass but instead, wait until someone pours some out for you and then drink from the same cup as them! It’s a sign of respect when drinking with friends or family so make sure to follow this rule if drinking with Koreans – they will be impressed 🙂
If drinking with colleagues, you may even be poured beer by the boss or someone else in charge. Always pour for others when drinking here to make sure that everyone is respected and drinking culture continues!
If drinking at home (with Korean friends), drinks are usually served in bottles on a tray where there would normally be plates of side dishes. If drinking outside, most Koreans drink from small shot glasses while holding them between their thumb and index finger. Make sure to follow suit if this style of drinking is observed otherwise it can come off as rude 😛 You should also avoid tipping back your head when drinking soju – instead sip slowly out of respect 🙂
Finally, never fill up other peoples’ cups more than half way unless they encourage you to do so! Again, drinking culture here is about respecting others and drinking less than half way would be considered rude.
Remember that drinking alcohol in Korea can come with different rules to drinking back home – just follow the etiquette rules for drinking here while having fun 🙂 Remember not to drink on streets or illegal places but if you’re careful then there are many drinks available at bars, restaurants and even convenience stores too! Have a great time drinking delicious Korean alcohols during your stay! Just use some common sense when it comes to public drunkenness 😉
How to order a drink in Korean
One of the first things that someone drinking in Korea will want to know is how to order a drink! Even if you’ve come out here before, drinking alcohol without knowing how to ask for it could make for an uncomfortable situation.
Luckily many places have menus which are usually displayed outside or near entrances these days so finding one isn’t too hard! If you simply say “one beer please” then your server should understand – they may even recommend new types based on your taste 🙂 If you want to order alcohol in Korean, here is a common phrases you can use:
-> “A bottle of soju, please” / so-ju han byeong ju-se-yo
-> “A glass of wine, please” / wine han jan ju-se-yo
This phrase will help you to order your drink in Korean and don’t worry if they sound difficult or confusing! You can always ask someone nearby for help 🙂
Now you know how to order drinks and what they are called, drinking here should be much easier! You can always ask your server if you have any questions about the menu – most will speak enough English that this shouldn’t cause problems 🙂
Common Korean Alcohols
There are many different types of alcohol in Korea. Soju is a very popular distilled rice liquor which has an ABV of 15%+, making it similar to vodka or higher-end ginseng whiskey. This clear, alcoholic drink can be drunk straight as a shot and also worked into food dishes for a more subtle flavour. There are some soju cocktails available at bars too – just ask your server if you’re interested 🙂 Another Korean alcohol that may be new to those who have not travelled out here before is maekgoli (makkolli). It’s made with fermented sorghum, wheat or rice and is similar to unfiltered sake in taste. It can also be drunk straight or used for cooking dishes too!
In addition to these drinks there are many others that can be tried while drinking here. Beer is always available but only really comes out after midnight – soju before beer 🙂 Wine can also be purchased but it is usually more expensive than other countries due to taxes on imported wines. So enjoy trying new types of alcohol when drinking here! You will never see all of them unless you try for yourself 🙂
Drink Prices in Korea
One of the first questions that many drinking alcohol drinker’s ask is how much does it cost? Drinks can come at different price ranges depending on where you are drinking and what type of alcohol your drinking.
For example, drinking in a restaurant with friends can be more expensive than drinking alone and drinking soju is generally much cheaper than drinking beer.
For example, a bottle of beer at convenience stores will cost around 2,000 KRW, but if drinking in a restaurant or drinking outside, prices will be more expensive! A bottle of soju starts from 1,800 KRW at convenience stores (3,000 at a bar) while some makgeolli (rice wine) can cost 5,000 KRW.
If drinking with friends then prices range from around 7,000 KRW per bottle to 12,000+ for some imported beers – again these prices depend on location as well!
A great way to compare costs between venues would be using sites like Naver where you can search by address/name of place which calculates all the cost details for you without having to ask each time.
So drinking outside or drinking in a restaurant is more expensive but you can find good deals at convenience stores.
When drinking in Korea, make sure to check the price of your drink before drinking it! If eating out with friends, splitting the bill won’t be too difficult – just make sure that everyone contributed money if ordering food 🙂
If drinking then you might want to know what are some of the best hangover cures!
Koreans usually drink gatorade or Pocari sweat after drinking alcohol as it helps with rehydrating, which is important if drinking soju on an empty stomach.
You can adapt this by drinking any clear liquid like water or juice – just make sure that there aren’t too many strong flavours in your drinks though 🙂 Some Koreans also eat noodles like ramen or naengmyeon after drinking alcohol.
Here are a few other remedies that Koreans swear by for hangover cures:
– Take a shower and drink milk – this is from an old wives tale saying that it will straighten out your stomach 🙂
– Drinking McDonald’s sweet tea after drinking has been another popular ritual of drinking culture, as locals believe the sweetness helps settle their stomachs! If you’re feeling adventurous then give it a go yourself 😉
– Finally, many Koreans also eat soup or kimchi stew in order to feel better when hung over – let us know if these work too 😛 Happy drinking!
Don’t forget to drink responsibly and use public transport when drinking as drinking and driving is illegal. Drink lots of water, eat some kimchi stew or soup if hungover the next day – remember that drinking culture here is all about respecting others! Just follow these simple rules while drinking with friends at different venues 🙂 Most importantly have a great time drinking delicious Korean liquor during your stay!
Drinking etiquette can be quite strict so make sure you know what would considered rude/impolite before drinking outside 😛 If unsure then just ask around first 😉 Be safe by using public transportation after drinking & drink lots of water too 🙂 Cheers for now from Seoul!