Hangover Cures in Korea

Korea's favorite pass time

Drinking is part of Korea's culture. There's no doubt about it. You take that out and you can see how dull an average salary worker's life is. The only time they get to socialize properly is through their "eat-out" culture, almost all the time accompanied with drinks. Companies set a aside money for "team bonding" or "team building exercises" which roughly translates as "drink you heart out and talk your heart out." 희삭's, or company dinners, help forge friendships for sure but through Soju, their national drink. It's the same even for universities, where Professors take students out and spend the rest of the night and pretty much all morning hopping around restaurants and bars and more restaurants. 

It's insane that they show up the next day all smiles and typing shit on their computers when you are having a hard time dragging yourself to your seat. This is not an exaggeration.

You can see why hangovers in Korea are the norm, rather than exception. So much so that the 해장하다 (Haejanhada) business, which translates to "to cure hangover", is a multi-million business that has increased 10 folds in the last 15 years [HERE]. Scores of products line the super-market with scores of people flocking to get a dose or two to lessen full impact of a bad hangover. 

Bad Hangovers?

Nobody has a definite answer as to why people have hangovers. Dehydration has been linked but science has debunked it time and time again. It's not lower glucose sugar either nor loss of electrolytes that some people claim. I drank three bottles of sports drink Powerade today thinking that re-hydration and those Mg+, Cl-, whatever they have written on their bottle and hasn't worked shit. What scientists do say is that toxic acetaldehyde build up, a by product of alcohol dissociation, could potentially cause hangovers. How that helps to reduce hangover is another question entirely. 

Through practice, it is clear that drinking in an empty stomach, not drinking water while drinking and mixing drinks has a clear impact on the level of intensity a person experiences hangover the next day (or the same). Having food, especially greasy once, slows down how stomach absorbs alcohol while water helps excrete liquid out from the body. More you head to the bathroom, the better but I don't have science to back me up.

Mixing, well, is another story. Korea's drinking culture is not limited to just Soju but you feel that piss-like-lagers they sell here are definitely better when a glass of soju takes a dip in the beer glass. Mixing, turns out, is also part of the picture. Then you move on to another place and this time, drink Makalli, a sweet rice wine, and the game is well and truly over. 

해장하다, Hangover Cures

One thing you will notice while staying in Korea is that they have food for just about anything; even men's sexual stamina as I have documented [HERE]. You hear the phrase being tossed around so much that you think yourself if this "stamina in bed" thing is really that epidemic or it's just Ajumma's marketing strategy. Anyhow, just like food for stamina, Korea has food for hangovers. 

김치찌개 (Kimchi Stew), my go-to Haejang
Photo Credits [HERE]
Introducing you to a range of 해장국 (Haejang-guk) which roughly translates to "soup for curing hangover." These are basically your day-to-day normal Korean food with no twist whatsoever. They simply help you recover better but there is no science to back it up. They work to a certain degree or at least that's what I have experienced. The steamy, hot soup with the delicious meaty proteins warms up that inner stomach line very nicely indeed. You can feel the liquid slowly chipping away that horrible, nauseating, puke infested headache. 

감자탕 (Some meat Stew)

My personal go-to Haejangung is 김치찌개 (Kimchi Stew). It's cheap, it's available and it works. Although if I do have options, I prefer 감자탕 (Meat Stew). It's really nice and thick, the meat tender and has all the ingredients (sprout mushrooms, greens, potatoes, more greens, ton of meat) that helps you to ditch that hangover. Or at least forget about it for a while. Because there's usually no appetite, I tend to first sip on the soup and go for the meat once I come my senses. 

콩나물 (Soyabean Sprout Soup)
Photo credits [HERE]

I am personally not a big fan of 콩나물 (Soyabean Sprout Soup) but I have seen my labmates head straight for a bowl of that right after a heavy night of drinking. Either that or the "Chinese" 짬뽕 (Spicy Sea Food Noodle Soup). I had that chance today but passed because I could hardly open my mouth anyways. 

This one time a friend my mine talking about 해장술 (Haejangsul) which basically means you cure hangover by drinking more. I have seen that in a couple of foreign cultures as well but no thanks. Any word that even slightly reminds me of alcohol will make the hangover way worse.

Pear Power
Image Credits [HERE]
I was going through an article, most probably in rolling stones, about a new research on Korean pear drink that promised to take hangover out of the equation. The investigative journalist got hold of the drink from somewhere, drank it and went on a freelance drinking spree. Results? turns out he wasn't having a hard time compared to his friend who hadn't had the drink before they head out. 

Don't know what shit they put in these "conditioners"
It's hard to say. I have personally never opted for "conditioners," as they like to call it here. These are drinks that you drink before you go out to drink. You get what I mean? It's a big, big business here and they are not cheap. A friend of mine once went to buy the "conditioner" in 7/11 and ended buying two bottles of Soju instead because, and I am not making this stuff up, "It's cheaper." These bottles set you back anywhere between 4k-6k Won($4-6) and if advertisements are supposed to be infused with red ginseng (a very popular, overpriced herb), raisin extract, lotus and tons of other shit that didn't make sense to me. I won't be surprised if they said dog hair and people would still buy it because it's almost at a point of desperation. You need results to stay in the game, for that you need to be productive and for that you shouldn't be hungover, every.single.time.

My favorite way is to
1) drag myself out of bed
2) swear never to drink again
3) take a really, really cold shower and jump around
4) put that chinese balm my mom brought long time ago. Not even sure if it's expired.
5) force feed Haejang
6) get sleeping

In all honesty, it's like a breakup. The first few hours are tough, you drag by and let time heal you. Unless you breakup when you have a hangover at the same time and the experience is 1000 times shittier.

Believe me, it really f**king is.


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