Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Korea One Drink at a Time



Korea posed a real learning curve made more difficult by the fact I was suddenly illiterate. I could speak a few polite phrases (not very well) but the Hangul written language remains a mystery to this day. All I remember is the Emporer that came up with the alphabet relied on artists and mathematicians to create the letters. This accounts for the very geometric appearance. The other thing is the tricky “o” that is sometimes just a placeholder and other times means something.
Despite that I was able to really enjoy the country for the most part. The family separation sucked big time, but that comes with the territory. Some of the fellows played with the bar girls, I just drank. Lots. More than ever. Ginseng-Bacchus Tea was ok too. We called it “dirt” because of the earthy taste form the ginseng root, the aftertaste was like you had just chugged a six-pack of Mountain Dew. Sometimes we did “Walls of Dirt” where one dude ran ahead and got glasses of dirt stacked on the bar; we'd drink those down and head for the next bar.
There was beer too. OB (Oriental Brewing) was my favorite. It came in huge “combat” bottles and whether you drank one or ten you were going to have skull-ache, so you might as well drink ten. The other main beer was Crown, way to bitter. There was Budwiser, but that was bottled by OB so might as well stick with the original. Besides My brother would disown me if he ever found out I drank Budwiser.
The King daddy of drinks in Korea was Soju. Soju was my favorite, kind of a Korean version of vodka, at least taste-wise. Jinro was the best brand the ones at the little “7-11's” were crap. Jinro practiced quality control, but the off brands had the alcohol content ranging from a glass of water to anti-freeze. You never knew. Soju also came in Combat bottles. It is inadvisable to drink one by yourself – we always shared. Usually mixed it with coke, or Kin (Korean version of 7-up) until we ran out of pop, then it was just Soju. There was a tradition to pour the top off the bottle. Legend had it that there was formaldehyde in Soju to speed the aging process and it would float to the top of bottle. Pouring it off the first inch of liquor was to make it safe to drink. I often wondered if that was the start of the “one for my hommies” deal.
You had to be careful with Soju because it didn't seem like much. To compound the problem it came in little bottles in the bars. You'd get some hard guy that would start pounding them down and wind up taking a dive off the balcony of the Friendship Club. The base Commander finally made the Friendship club close their second floor to keep this form happening. Too many broken limbs/skulls at the clinic. Never tried flying myself.
The was the urban legend of the G.I. that got so drunk he fell into a Binjo ditch and drowned. A Binjo is an open sewer, drowning is the least of your problems if you fall in one of those. The don't have shots for what's swimming around in that sludge.
Wow, reading back over this it was all about drinking. I will have to look through some of my old pictures and see if I can post some – they aren't all the insides of bars, either. I am pretty sure there are a few shots of a temple in there somewhere.

12 Comments:

At 3:54 AM, Blogger SC said...

Booze, bars, babes, temples and travelling - sounds like the perfect holiday. Shame there had to be a war!

Given a choice, I was never too fond of Budweiser. Then again, in my drinking days, I wasn't too fussy come to think of it. Although you wouldn't catch me drinking antifreeze. Certainly not without a glass anyway.

 
At 9:32 AM, Blogger Becky said...

Drunk photos are cool. Although, I got into some shit when I was younger and it enables me from drinking at all anymore! I almost died when I was 19 or 20, I even went Jaundice, (my skin turned yellow as did the whites in my eyes.) It was pretty fucking scary! Since I lived I've tried to stay away from the alcohol, that and ever since then even the smell makes me sick to my stomach!

 
At 1:24 PM, Blogger Sarah Letnes said...

No wonder the world hates America. We inflicted Budwiser on them.

 
At 2:05 PM, Blogger Dirk the Feeble said...

I love your "if you're going to drink 1 you might as well drink 10" philosophy.

 
At 3:29 PM, Blogger Chickie said...

I think Soju is the stuff that my Mom said she and her girlfriends would drink. Heh, I didn't know she was so hardcore when she was younger.

 
At 7:11 PM, Blogger The Phosgene Kid said...

SC,

Hope you aren't inferring I was in Korea during the war! I ain't that frikkin' old!


Becky,

I had a couple Frat brothers with the same problem, they didn't wise up so I suspect they are probably dead by now. There is a saying that alcohol kills brain cells, but only the weak ones – unfortunately the weak ones are the ones we are using

Dirk,

That was just a modification to the old saw: “Might as well be hung for sheep as lamb”

Sarah,

Budwiser and mormon missionaries.

Chickie,

Your mom wasn't hardcore for drinking the soju, she was hardcore for drinking the water

 
At 11:59 PM, Blogger Kent said...

I appreciate your Air Force service. Thank you.

 
At 5:58 AM, Blogger Die Muräne said...

my friend spent about a year in korea, building a power station or whatever. Just told me baaaad stories ;-)
Did you also use to piss in the Kimtchi-Pots?

 
At 4:26 PM, Blogger The Phosgene Kid said...

DM,

Ever had Kimchi? There's no need to piss in the pots, the stuff is already nasty enough. Especially the winter Kimchi.

Kent,
Thank you! Truth be told I really enjoyed most of it, at least the parts I remember.

 
At 10:08 PM, Blogger Tea and Books, etc said...

I'm boggled by how much ethanol your innards must have gotten up close and personal with, PK! ;-)

You sure you don't have a titanium belly and esophagus?

 
At 8:20 AM, Blogger SC said...

LOL PK, as if I would imply such a thing? Korean War? I bet you just saw it on telly as a kid...

 
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