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Spice Up Your Drinking Life: Korean Drinking Games

October 8, 2011

If Koreans know how to do one thing well, it is drinking.  I’d say over technology, innovation and national cuisine, the zest to drink triumphs them all!  This may sound surprising to some, but the ‘work hard, play hard’ mentality takes on a whole new meaning here.  While out with co-workers and bosses it is completely acceptable, even encouraged, to get flat-out wasted with them.   A hike to the top of a mountain would not be complete without a drink (or 5) of rice wine at the top.   A table at a Korean BBQ restaurant would also not be complete without at least 4 bottles of soju.

Korean middle-aged men seem to do most of the drinking, and spotting one passed out on the sidewalk (or anywhere else for that matter: subway stations, outdoor gyms, stairs)  is a common site.

(Thanks Ashley for snapping this gem on the way home one night).

I would say that the reason Koreans drinks so much is to come out of their conservative shells and relax from all the pressures of every day life.  But going to have drinks with people is of large importance in Korean culture to enhance personal relationships.

The fact that it the national alcohol, soju, is so cheap doesn’t help either.

Soju in taste is comparable to a watered down vodka.  (And the more frequently you drink it, the worse it seems to be).  Originally made from rice, soju now is distilled from cheaper starches (and cheaper processes), and produces a 20% alcohol.  Each 300ml bottle costs around $1 US at a convenient store.

The loudest you’ll ever hear a Korean is in the midst of a drinking game.  The games are usually played while gathered around a table in a bar or other drinking establishments.   A pitcher of Cass or Hite, a few bottles of soju and the ability to drink until odd hours of the night are required.  Below I’ve compiled some of my favorite Korean games.  So for those of you tired of the usual King’s Cup or Asshole… experiment with one of these.

1. Titanic– A personal favorite, this game has the ability to keep you on the edge of your seat, completely single out the loser, and make them drink way more than they’d like.

Take a full glass of beer and place an empty shot glass in it so it floats.  Pass around a bottle of soju (could be modified to use Japanese sake at home) and gently pour a small amount into the shot glass.  Keep passing the bottle until someone sinks the shot glass into the beer.  The person who has sunk the shot glass, must chug the entire glass.

2. Baskin Robbins 31- A popular chain in Korea, and a popular game for many Koreans.  All you need to do it count.

Most Koreans start out this game by singing “Baaskin Rooobbinnns Thirrty Onne!” and doing some hand motion but that’s the least important part.  Everyone gets in a circle and each person can say between one and three numbers.  For example, the first person may say “1,2” then the next can say “3,4,5” and the next “6”.  You continue on until you reach 30, and the person that must say “31” is the loser and must drink.    (Koreans like to end this one with a ridiculous song at the end as well)

3.  Napkin, Beer, Cigarette–  Another favorite because it can take some strategy.

Place a napkin over an empty beer glass.  Wet the rim of the glass so the napkin sticks to it.  Place a 100 won coin (or quarter) in the middle of the napkin.  Then pass around a lit cigarette and each person burns one hole into the napkin around the coin.  It will take many holes until the coin actually falls into the glass.  The person who is at fault for the dropping coin, must chug a glass of beer (or take a shot).

4. Shock Game- Easy game, better after the drinking has been going on for a while already.

This game also starts out with a crazy Korean song.  Basically, the first person will yell “AHHHHH Shock”and point to someone in the circle.  Then the people to the left and the right of the person that was shocked must raise and shake their hands (basically do jazz hands).  Then the person that was pointed to follows and says “AHHHH Shock” and points at someone else.  The people that have to drink are the ones not paying attention/daydreaming when they are part of the shocking.

5. Cup Tapping- Good game for a group of people sitting around with a beer.

The first person taps their beer mug on the table once. This passes it to the person on the right, who can then either tap once, which passes it on to the next person on the right, or twice, which reverses the direction and it goes back to the first player. The game can be enhanced to include 3 taps which means to skip one person in the same direction. The person, or persons, who mess up have to drink.

6. 3,6,9- Another very popular numbers game in Korea.

The object of this game is to go around the circle while each person counts one number.  The exception is at every number that includes a 3, 6 or 9 the person must clap instead.  If the number includes two of those numbers, like the number 39, you must clap twice.  When someone messes up they must drink and you start from the beginning.  You try to say the numbers fast so that the people who have to clap will forget and say the number instead.

Fun facts:

  • Koreans chant “One shot, one shot” when chugging a drink, or challenging someone to drink, as in to say ‘all in one shot’.
  • Korean for cheers is “Kun-bae”



So ‘cheers’, ‘건배’, and ‘salud’ to all my friends and family around the world.  I hope that if you are bored with the usual drinking games, you might bring in some Korean flair.  🙂

One Comment leave one →
  1. October 8, 2011 2:55 pm

    I should try that one out. During my stay in China, we loved the “baiju”. Wine from rice as well and..very strong! But not as strong as what we have here in the Phillippines. 75% alcohol, imagine. MOdesty aside, my colleagues from Africa and Middle East were awed at how I “enjoyed” the baiju. In moderation, of course. Nice story you got.

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