08 February 2013

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KDrama Culture Alcohol Part II - Location

Posted by CM Shukmeister on February 08, 2013
In a KDrama, the setting is sometimes more important than the story.  Where an event takes place can show a lot about a character.  Whether you are are alone crying in your beer, or partying with a bunch of your best-and-brightest, the correct watering hole will set the perfect tone.
“People who drink to drown their sorrows should be told that sorrow knows how to swim.”
– Ann Landers

TYPES OF KDRAMA DRINK LOCATIONS - POJANGMACHAS

Pojangmachas are one of the most prevalent locations in KDramas to drink.  CNN included p’machas as part of their Travel site: CNN's Guide to Pojangmachas!   In 2012, there were approximately 3,100 of them in Seoul alone.  There’s a reason for this: they offer cheap eats and lots of alcohol. (Just a quick side note: I only included the CNN P'macha link, but in that article there are also links to various makgeolli or mixed drink bars in Seoul, in case, yunno, you want to do further research.)
They come in several incarnations:
-          A large plastic tent attached to a food truck, with plastic blue tables and chairs. 
-          Outside an established restaurant along a sidewalk or pedestrian-only street.
-          Various fairs and temporary festivals

The food is usually quick and hot, including variations of stuff-on-a-stick and finger foods.  It’s a good place to get faced, sing the blues, and still have a few snacks made by the friendly ahjumma who runs it. It also can be good for a little drunken time with your girl, even if she doesn't know who you are.
It would probably be easier to name dramas that DON'T have a p'macha.  Hmm, saegueks and....saegueks.
Maybe because they didn't have plastics during the Joseon Dynasty?

TYPES OF KDRAMA DRINK LOCATIONS - NORAEBANGS

Sing!  Drink!  Sing some more!!  Noraebangs or Korean karaoke bars show up in just about every television series, from romantic comedies to the finest melodrama.  It cannot be a slice of life without a slice of music! 
The alcohol in a KDrama noraebang tends to be a bit of everything: beer, wine, whiskey, punch, mixed drinks, and little finger foods like fruit.

In reality (at least in the States), some noraebangs allow patron to bring their own beer and wine, but not their own snacks.  Cost is $ 7 to $ 10 american per person per hour.

And, for the record, they had them in Korea waaaayyy before modern times.  This is a painting by the famed  Joseon artist Shin Yun Bok, (fictionally portrayed in the KDrama Painter of the Wind (2008)) shows that drunk people in groups are universal and across time!

TYPES OF KDRAMA LOCATIONS – CASUAL DINING

Casual food shops such as soondae or ramyun shops are used, mainly to show a comfortable dining experience with the alcohol as a counterpoint.  A great example is found in Twinkle Twinkle (2011) where our OTP fall in love / break up / get back together at Song Soon-joon’s mother’s restaurant.  (Unfortunately I was unable to find screen shots for the show).
Scenes in restaurants like these from Harvest Villa (2010) and I Do I Do (2012) respectively, are usually more conversation than drinking, with the occasional swinging chopsticks added for emphasis.

These locations usually have wooden tables, either Western height with chairs or Eastern height with cushions.  The food is served on plates or in bowls, and include banchan (small containers of various condiments to flavor the main course).  I can attest that the Korean beef in a place like this is excellent, thanks to BIG BANG and my online buddies who met me for the concert!.
It was a woman who drove me to drink, and I never had the courtesy to thank her for it."                                                           - W.C. Fields

                               TYPES OF KDRAMA LOCATIONS – GISAENG HOUSES

While sagueks don't have p'machas, they do have their drunken revelry moments. These are normally set at gisaeng houses.  Gisaengs were the equivalent of Japanese geishas; that is, a combination of prostitute and lounge act, combining beauty, music, grace, and makgeolli.
The entertainment areas were casual dining but with flair. Tables piled high with yummy tidbits and lots and lots of wine.  The gisaengs themselves were trained in musical instruments and dance.
Come to think of it, it does kind of compare to a noraebang with the exception of the post-party procedures.   (Hwan Tae Bum from Ojakgyo Brothers didn't understand the distinction, unfortunately).


TYPES OF KDRAMA LOCATIONS – FORMAL DINING

One of the scarier places to drink alcohol is found in a KDramas formal dining room. For meeting the in-laws for the first time, to cementing a business deal, nothing says "Do Not Smile Inside The Door" better than this.  For some reason, a lot of them have a Japanese flair, with women dressed in obis serving the table. In the Que Sera Sera (2008) example below, the attendant is sitting against the back wall.
Food is usually plated, elaborate and tiny, usually recognizable seafood (such as lobster or shrimp) or beef.  Alcohol can include wine and hard liquors, but never soju or beer.

For many chaebol and celebrity characters, a formal dining room is the only place to propose or get some alone time with your significant other, or in the case of Shin-woo, keep waiting while her heart tumbles into someone else's hands.

So there you have it, a brief tour of the places we love to visit when our favorite characters (and villains) try to show that everyone has the right to drink and do silly and evil and romantic and loud things!!

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