Proper Soju Drinking Etiquette In Korea

South Korea has a long dated history, through the passing of the years, some of its oldest traditions are still being passed to younger generations. One of them is their drinking culture. South Koreans are one of the biggest consumers of alcohol in the world. That could explain why their hangover cures are so awesome.

However, contrary to popular belief, Koreans don’t drink to the sole purpose of getting drunk. Getting together for a drink is to build up relationship with our peers, whether that may be our friends or our colleges at work.

Koreans drink to set the mood, rather that only consume alcohol. A drink can stimulate the appetite, perk up the atmosphere and keep the conversation going.

During drinking sessions Koreans have a variety of alcoholic drinks; normally during after-work get-togethers beer used to be consumed, but in recent years Soju’s consumptions has been overshadowing beer’s consumption with more people, ordering Soju’s newest alternatives: “Flavored Soju”.

Also check: The History of Soju and its Modernization.


Since the olden days the younger seek to learn good manners from their elders, to this day, South Korea keeps the drinking protocol as one of the most treasured traditions.

Korean soju drinking etiquette Drinking CultureDrinking Culture
Don’t drink alone, the whole point on drinking in group is bond with each other.Don’t fill your own drink, it’s impolite.Let others fill your glass, hold your glass with two hands.
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 If you see someone’s glass empty, offer to fill it up, it’s good etiquette to hold the bottle with two hands, or with one hand resting on your elbow.
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 If you are drinking with superiors (in age or position) turn away your head away as you drink.
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 Drink responsibly! Remember it is not about getting drunk, don’t make it uncomfortable to others and save the embarrassing moment of having to explain yourself next day.

Drinking Culture

Also read: A Delicious, New Korean Way to Cure your Hangover.

When consuming alcohol with South Koreans it isn’t about how much you can drink, like said before;

“People are drinking to enjoy relationships and hobby activities rather than for the drink itself”

– Ha Jong-Eun

President of the Korean Alcohol Research Foundation

There is also a saying that goes:


One glass is not enough,

Three is still lacking,

Five is just right,

Seven is over drinking.

So try not to overthink it and just enjoy it.

Bear in mind that even though you have every right to say no, South Korean can be pushy when it comes to drink so be prepared for your refusal to drink be refused. Because drinking is to strengthen the bond between your peers, if you refuse without giving a good reason it can be taken as you don’t want to be part of it.

These are some of the most acceptable excuses for not drinking, most South Koreans won’t insist after you’ve given a “good” reason as of why you can’t drink.

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You are pregnant

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You are the designated driver.

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You are taking medication.

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You can’t drink because of your religion.

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You have alcohol allergies.