Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Korean Social Hierarchy: Love it, or hate it, obey it!!

For most foreigners who come to the ROK the Korean social hierarchy is the most confusing, frustrating, anger inducing thing they have to endure during the period of the employment. Unfortunately, in the school system, be it public or private, the hierarchy is at the center of life at the school with teachers and students strictly working with in it. But before we get into all that, let me explain the reason for it.

Korea in it's millenia long existence has historically been highly influenced by China. One of those influences that came, settled, and conquered was Confucianism, a social code that relied on all people knowing their place in said society and behaving according to their station, giving unbending honor and respect to those above them and  expecting the same from those below them. All of this would ideally form the perfectly cohesive society. The ancient Koreans ate it up.

Confucianism became so well ingrained that it transcended the Korean language, creating a dizzying maze of honorific word endings, phrases, and even the titles of family members. And many of these are used only by females or only by males! Students of the language have quite a lot of homework, and any slight mess up (like forgetting to add "yo" on the end of a sentence while talking to a scary Ahjumma) can cause serious offense from which you may not socially recover.

All of this is geared towards keeping the established social order healthy and strong for the purpose of a well 

Knowning your place in the social order of things is one of the first hard lessons for many foreigners.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Damn...It's been almost a year

Ok, so this past year at Bucheon High has been hectic as all hell. As such, I haven't even thought about my blog account. It's a sad thing really. I love writing, but I never seem to have time or energy for it. I'm hoping to change that. I'd had a lot of things on my mind and I've been dying to express them.

So, I'll try to write much more often on my life in Korea.

Friday, January 28, 2011

I Heart My Hak-Sang!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Today was the last day of my Winter Class, and one of the last days I'll be teaching my favorite students. I have developed a relationship with them that is based more on friendship than just a mere teacher/student one. I know that many other teachers will criticize me for that because I run the risk of losing my authority with them, but honestly I haven't had that kind of reaction from them. Even though we consider ourselves friends I still retain a bit of authority due to my age thanks to Korean society norms.

But anyway, on to today's events! Today started well enough with my slang class. Half the class didn't show up due to sleeping in, which meant that half the class couldn't complete their projects. I didn't really mind because it was the last day and they had been a great class the whole three weeks. After class my fan club came up to me and reminded me about having lunch with them. Later in the day two of them showed up, Sun-Zero and Hyun Ah, and hung out with me a little before we got lunch. Both girls gave me homemade gifts of colorful notes of love and appreciation, Hyun Ah's taking up an entire sketchbook.

We headed to lunch at Mom's Touch, home of the Cyburger (a giant fried chicken breast sandwich). I was surprised that only two of them showed up, and felt a little deserted by the others. I rationalized that maybe something had come up and tried not to feel hurt.

At Mom's Touch, Sun-Zero encouraged us to eat our Cyburgers slowly. I figured it was just to savor the meal rather than scarf it down. I didn't suspect a thing because I'm one of the most oblivious people you'll ever meet, a trait I got from my father.

After lunch, we headed back to school. Usually, Hyun Ah takes the bus home and Sun Zero and I continue on until we part at the school gate. This time they claimed that they had forgotten some of their items at school. Again, I didn't suspect anything being in my usual role of Capt. Oblivious. We headed up the steps and Sun-Zero said, "Teacher! I left my pencil case! This room! Please follow!" So I followed her to her classroom, and as she and Hyun Ah opened the door there stood a small candle-lit cake in a darkened room. My first thought was that we had crashed someone's party, until they all jumped out screaming excitedly.

Surprised beyond words, they led me dumbfounded to the cake and had me blow out the candles before sitting me down in front of a large screen to view their homemade going away video. The video had taken them hours to prepare and film and it was filled with pictures of them giving me a special message. I was so touched I nearly cried, and it was a battle holding the tears back. I had NEVER expected anything like this from them, or from anybody, and I felt an incredible amount of love from and for them.

After they gave me a copy of the video and we packed up everything, Sun-Zero took me up to the English room to tell me a secret. They were hosting another party for Hyun Ah because it was her birthday and we were to take her downstairs to another classroom nonchalantly to surprise her with another small party. As the three of us walked down the stairs Sun-Zero said to me casually, "Teacher, thank you for coming to bus stop with us!", trying to fool Hyun Ah.Reaching the classroom, Hyun Ah was just as surprised as I had been to find a cake and gifts waiting for her. We had a ton of fun hanging out, making jokes, taking pictures, and basically just acting like teenagers.

I adore these girls for their unique personalities, their fun loving natures, their curiosity and openness to new cultures and ideas ("Teacher, I understand gay! Love is love! Who cares?!), and most of all their ability to love without condition. I have never felt so good to be a teacher as I have in their presense, especially when I have been able to explain something, such as grammar, so that they see it as easy and logical where at first they found it disorderly and complex. And they retain it! They have all said that I not only inspired an interest in English for them, but I also gave them confidence in using it. They are the reason I so regret having to leave Janggok High School.  But they are also the reason I will never forget my year here and cherish it for the rest of my life.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Haidong!- Dark Mountains, Flashing Swords

So it's been nine months and I've advanced to the Red/Blue belt. I've never gotten this far in a martial art before so I'm really rather thrilled.

My technique is improving, and with the recent usage of real swords incorporated every now and then during class, as opposed to my regular wooden one, I can actually *feel* what I'm doing wrong. Many people think using a sword is easy, that you just swing it around until you slice your target. But there's far more to it than just your swing. Knowing were on the blade your cut should strike, the extent of your arms in a blocking position, the aim of every cut on the opponents body, the turn of the blade as you make an upward torso cut...and countless more are all things you must learn before you can call yourself a true swordsman.

On Tuesday, Master Cha informed me that the next evening would be a training session between select students from her dojang and her father's dojang in Ansan, which is the next town over. We would go into the mountains to a little shelter where we would practice cutting bundles of straw with live blades. Up until now I had used wooden and metal blades, but the metal blades had always been blunted. The swords we would use on the mountain would be true sharpened blades that would come from my master's and her father's collections.

I got to the dojang earlier than usual and after the dropping off the kids Master Cha, myself, and another student, a young girl named Ju Young (주영), went to Ansan to pick up Master Cha's mother and student. I got to see her father's dojang and it was nice! Ours is a little dingy and quite small, but the one in Ansan was open, newer looking, had high ceilings, more equipment... Don't get me wrong, I love my dojang but I couldn't help but feel a little envious.

We headed to the mountains and the ride there made me a little motion sick. The bright lights of the city were blinding me so I cupped my head in my hands and tried to steady my breathing, fearing I would vomit it the ride continued for much longer.

Once out of the city, we turned off on a little side road that lead into total darkness. It was one hell of a contrast between Ansan and the mountain road and I felt less sick. We finally got to the shelter, which was little more than a greenhouse looking building that had apparently seen better days. Inside it was very spacious and dimly lit with old overhead lamps. In the corner was an old iron stove with a pile of discarded bamboo pieces, evidence of a previous training session.

We gathered around the stove to warm up and were soon joined by a friendly black and white cat who stayed with us throughout our visit. I was unsure why were were waiting. So as Master Cha began unpacking her swords, and her mother the food, I explored around a little bit. The shelter was long and a little narrow, but free of debris. The floor was of tightly packed earth that cradled evidence of puddles and water runoff, which I found curious. Against the walls stood a plethora of stands for holding straw and bamboo targets. Most could hold one or two targets, but there were a few that could hold ten and one that could hold twenty! Near the back were high stacks of tightly bound straw targets and beside those were two large, deep plastic tubs.

Master Cha called me over and put a heavy sword in my hands, instructing me through slow Korean and hand gestures to use the utmost caution, and then had me practice Paldo (unsheathe the sword) and Chakgum (sheathe the sword) and then some cuts. The male student and I practiced for about thirty minutes as we waited, but for what I still did not know. I was nervous as I practiced. The sword was heavy so my cuts were labored, and my hands were shaking. A few times I nearly slung the sword into the ground, which would have earned me a hefty punishment.

Master came over and watched me work, noted my mistakes, and showed me how to correct them. She continued to watch me but I felt no nervousness. After her instruction my cuts felt better, more precise. And when I heard her say "Gro-chi" (right, correct) I knew I was doing it right.

Suddenly headlights appeared out the door and a short ahjuma climbed out of a large van. She greeted my master, her mother, and the students with warm affection of familiarity, but when she turned to me her smile faded and her eyes went wide. It's not every day you see a blue eyed white girl in your shack out in the middle of nowhere. Once she got over the shock of seeing a foreigner she was very friendly towards me, beckoning me over to the stove to warm up and giving up her seat for me as well. Eventually, she grabbed a large wooden cart and headed to the two large plastic tubs to pull out soaking wet bundles of straw. I now understood the reason for the water run-off.

My master grabbed three single stands from along the wall and set them up in the middle of the floor. Once the ahjuma had stacked up 25 bundles of straw in the cart she rolled it back towards us and master taught me how to properly impale a bundle on one of the stands. Each straw bundle is tied into 5 parts. The idea is to cut the straw between the ties. If you cut the tie and break open the straw your cut doesn't count.

My first try was successful, beautiful, with the straw falling to the ground still perfectly tied and the rest unbroken. However, my subsequent attempts were not so good...

For the first half of my bundles I cut them too high or low and always hitting the string so that the bundles fell open at the top, making it even more difficult to cut the rest. By the end of it, I had improved greatly. I loved having a real sword in my hands. I loved the weight, the feel of the straw as I sliced, and the power of such a gorgeous weapon in my hands. It reminded me slightly of the first, and only, time I used a gun. But with a gun, while I felt powerful, I was frightened by the control I had over life and death and didn't want to handle a gun again after that. But with a sword I felt more in control of the weapon itself, as well as the artistry required to handle it.

After we demolished the bundles, I caught the delicious aroma of samgeupsal filling the tiny shack. We cleaned the swords, sheathed them, and put them in the case as my master and her mother cooked the thick pork meat on the top of the pot bellied stove with sheets of tin foil. We were joined by my master's father, the Grand Master, and we all stuffed ourselves with roasted pork, kimchi, and beer. We even shared some of our meal with the cat, who was not very happy about the heat coming off the meat, biting into a hot juicy bite, letting it go and then scatting at it menacingly.

I had a really good night, even though I was exhausted by the practice. We stayed out in the mountains for three hours practicing and eating. I felt happy and accepted by the group. Even though my Korean is not as good as it should be, they always make an effort to include me. I love the spirit of camaraderie during these times we spend together, and whats more I love that my place among them is based on my character and not on my status as a foreigner living among the Koreans.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Koreans Are So Damn Cute For Teenagers!

Every teacher has said this: I have some of the best students in the world!!! But I really do...HA!

Not a day passes when one of my students doesn't do something just completely cute, affectionate, or down right hilarious. I had one boy the other day, a sweet quiet kind of guy, have trouble figuring out a vocabulary word. I tried to prompt him a little.

Me: "Ok. It's a small bag you CARRY ON the airplane..."
Boy:  "Um...um...ah! Drugs!!"

Korean students tend to have a level of affection for their teachers that you can't see in the States. They are always invading the teacher's lounge to ask questions, receive punishments or scoldings, or just to chat. One of the best things about Korea is that I'm able to be physically affectionate with them. I'm allowed to pat them on the shoulder, tussle their hair, and even hug them. They love to link arms with me, hug me, and hold my hand while we are talking in the hallways or after class. I feel like, despite the language barrier, I have a deeper connection with my students because I'm able to do that. By being physically close we form an indescribable bond. And what I really love is that even though my student's English level is low, they make a HUGE effort to communicate with me. And believe me, their level is so low that even the smallest communication is an amazing accomplishment, and I'm so proud of them when they make the effort.

Example: I have one girl who doesn't speak well at all, but we grew close during my summer vacation drama class. So when she has class with me I always make sure to greet her personally with my usual "What's up?". However, she never knew how to respond, and since I have 40 students per class it was difficult for me to explain it to her one on one. One day I was unable to greet her directly because the class started late, and later I noticed that she looked a bit sad during our session together. After class she approached me with several of her friends and they tried for five minutes to explain to me in broken English what she wanted. Finally, she got her point across:

Girl: "Teacher, I prepare!"
Me: "Um, OK. What did you prepare?"
Girl: "I prepare...um...re...ah! Response!"
Me: "Ok...To what?"
Girl: "Teacher, you say to me, 'What's up?'"
Me: "Ok. What's up?"
Girl: "Nothing much, Teacher! Bye!!"

And she left my classroom smiling so brightly at her triumph that I was almost moved to tears. Yes, it was simple. Yes, it was small. But to me it was everything because this girl had researched and made a response to a common question that was not in her textbook. I was so very proud of her for taking the initiative.

What I hate is that because I have so many students (around 800) I cannot remember everyone's name. That and Korean names are a bit difficult. Out of respect for their culture I have not required them to have English names. Sometimes they choose an English name themselves and only then will I call them by that. I do know a few because I am more acquainted with them.

Ka-Young (가영)
One of them is Ka-Young. She's very good at English and she is one of the favorites among the teachers because she always has a bright smile on her face. She never seems sad or upset, but she has told me that she does feel those kinds of emotions sometimes. She is very pleasant and I've had the fortune of having dinner with her and her mother before. It was an extremely pleasant experience and Ka-Young is an excellent and sweet student.

Kyoung-Suh (경서)

 Another is Kyoung-Suh. She is very good at English, especially at listening and translating. I became close to her in my Summer Drama class. Ka-Young was also in the class and I became closer to her as well. I tried to get away from the rigid Korean classroom and make my three week course more in the Western style, which the students seemed to enjoy. It also helped that I only had 14 students and they were all female. That made everything go more smoothly. Since Kyoung-Suh was the best at English she acted as translator when the others were confused. I learned that the girls really enjoyed my class because the content was interesting, but more importantly they loved the atmosphere and the closeness that developed between myself and them. During the days leading up to the last class the girls seemed glum, and on the last day they were completely upset. Kyoung-Suh told me that she felt empty and depressed. At the end of class the girls were reluctant to leave and kept taking turns hugging me over and over again.

Since then Kyoung-Suh is fond of calling me her lover, which I admit is very odd. But I've since learned that Korean high school girls tend to have girl crushes on androgynous looking females and that they usually grow out of by university. So I'm not really worried.

Min Ji (민지)
There is also Min Ji, who is a short and adorable student. Every time she sees me she gasps, her eyes go big in surprise and she makes the quickest, lowest bow I've ever seen. She used to scurry away from me smiling, but recently she has become very open towards me, approaching me with questions and even casual conversation. She's a very hard worker and because she likes me so much she has become very bossy when it comes to her team. She wants everything perfect for every assignment I give them. She even emailed me a picture she drew saying, "Teacher! I love you!".She has also started emailing me regularly.

Me and Ha Young (하영)
There's also Ha Young, one of the androgynous females of Janggok High. She is in the lowest class but tries to talk to me. I usually have to get my co-teacher to translate. She has a very bubbly personality and always high fives me in the hallways and loves to run up and hug me. She always wears a short style haircut and when I cut my hair in the summer she playfully accused me of copying her. "Teacher, I am original! Original hairstyle!"

Some other things I have learned from my students:

One girl, during her presentation on China, informed me that "Chinese food tastes strong and Chinese".

While I'm very popular with the girls I have also gained a fan base with many of the boys, particularly in the 1st grade (Freshman). A few of the 2nd grade boys (juniors) like me a lot and will usually try to help me quiet down the class. I don't like to shout, which they like, and while I wait calmly for them to be silent these boys usually take up the call by yelling, "Shut up!" in either English or Korean.

Several of the boys scream my name in the hallways and high five me or give me the fist punch. Two boys in particular like to bust into my room from time to time doing rap hand gestures and body movements, while saying, "Teacher! We love you! We love you hip hop style! Yeah, yeah, yo, yo! Wassup!!"

Mun Hyoung (문형) (R) and his adorable friends
One of my favorites is Mun Hyoung, or as I like to call him, "Rock and Roll". On the first day of my class this year I introduced myself and played some of my favorite music. Ever since then Mun Hyoung has said to me, "Hey, Teacher, rock and roll! I love you...!". One day in class we were working on expressing our goals for high school and Mun Hyoung raised his hand. "My goal for high school is Teacher...me...love!!!" And he made his hands into a heart shape. I laughed and playfully called him a liar, to which he said, "No! Teacher! I say truth!"

Even though my job has it's difficulties, especially during the first semester, I have never felt so satisfied with any other job before. Yes, I have problems. Yes, I have bad days. Yes, there are times when I want to scream at the students to shut the hell up and listen to me for fuck sake. But at the end of the day, when students drop by my office just to chat and see how I'm doing or to tell me something happening in their lives, or when countless students run up to me to say hi and high five me as I walk through the halls heading home, I forget all the little headaches and remember the most important thing: They love me, and I love them, and because of that I know that my efforts of kindness, sensitivity, and sincerity are affecting them for life. We will remember each other, and for this momentary space of time we have together we are making the absolute most of it, no matter how insignificant it may seem to rest of the world.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Funny Signs in Korea: Part 1

Ah, Korea! Land of the Morning Calm on most days but on some days it becomes Land of the Shrieking Laughter of Foreigners. One generally sees three languages written on signs in Korea: Korean, Chinese and English. However, this is about the English side to all this jumbling of alphabets and phrases. 

Some signs are either misspelled, have terrible grammar and end up saying things they don't mean, or just plain interesting. Here are only a few, but I am always hunting for more:

Ah yes, this is NOT a stolen idea at all...

I never knew such a thing existed!!!

World class beers in all their deliciousness...and then the cheap, crappy American one...

Oh god, I do NOT want to see the patrons of this establishment!

In case there was any doubt about the love of this particular coffee shop

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Freakin' Wasted: A Guide to Korean Drinking Culture and Traditions

Me and a colleague (aka 'Sexy Guy')
I have realized that there are few truly useful resources out there concerning first hand accounts of drinking in Korea. Since the country has a surprisingly strong drinking culture I figured I could lend my 2 1/2 years of experience to whoever stops by. Let's begin...

A typical group night out

Drinking unites the generations 
If anyone has visited or lived in Korea for any amount of time they will have encountered the ultimate weapon in the Korean drinking arsenal. SOJU (소주)!!!!!!!!!!! Since this shit is soooo damn potent, it's important for foreigners to know what they are up against. Soju is a very deceiving beverage that will leave you curled up in the fetal position crying softly for mommy while you nurse your massive hangover in the wee hours of the morning if not drunk properly. We've all been there at some point...

First, what is soju? Soju is a clear liquor made from rice that has a very high alcohol content. Soju is THE drink in Korea. It comes in a small green bottle, about the size of a 20 oz coke bottle, and sells for insanely cheap at any convenience store (about 1,200 won/1$ US) or super market (900won/75cents US). If you buy it at a restaurant to accompany your meal then it can cost double or so (around 3,000-4,000 won/3-4$). The taste is extremely bitter and tartly alcoholic. It can be mixed, often with Chilsung Cider (a Sprite-like soft drink). Several foreigners I know get pretty creative, using it in iced tea and even jello shots.

How do you drink it? It is usually drunk from a shot glass, but it is not really appropriate to shoot the whole thing back at once, unless the Koreans cry out, "One shot!". Then it's ok.

How do I offer and receive soju? Korea is a hierarchical society and knowing your place in it is the first step towards success. Age is of utmost importance. Even the difference of one year can put you lower or higher than another. Typically, you serve with two hands on the bottle (or you may use one hand with your other hand touching your serving arm) and pour for the other person. They will then take the bottle from you and serve you in similar form. It is appropriate to hold your glass with two hands when receiving. It is important that you don't pour for yourself because you might be seen as an alcoholic and a bit selfish. Koreans usually keep an eye on each others drinks and are sure to fill your glass for you. I recommend doing the same, that way everyone can have their drinks refilled at the same time. By doing this you maintain the spirit of community that is so important to the Koreans. Doing things together, even drinking, is important for social cohesion. It also makes you look really good as foreigner. Note also that if you are clearly older than your drinking partner it is ok for you to receive and serve with only one hand. For the sake of safety, I recommend using two at first until you get to know your drinking partner on a more intimate level. *Remember also that sometimes you will see a younger Korean turn slightly away from the group and drink from the side. This is a polite way of drinking in front of elders and I recommend trying it. Doing so will impress those in your party. Don't worry, you won't have to do it every time. Just watch for prompts from those around you.*

What is a Poktanju (폭탄주)? This drink is what we would call a "boiler maker". Simply put, you take a shot glass full of soju and drop it into a glass of beer and chug the sucker back. Doing this will put you in awed standing with your Korean drinking buddies and definately boost your reputation. Though Koreans are serious workers, they are also serious drinkers and the ability to drink and have a roaring good time is essential to most Korean friendships, especially among the older generation. Word of caution: doing only one of these is enough to have the desired effect. More than this and you're libel to have trouble functioning the next day.

What is Somek (소맥)? Somek is a glass of beer (막주) with a shot of soju in it. This is drunk just like a regular glass of beer (ie. You don't shoot it back!). With this combination, just drink it slowly and enjoy. If you chug it you will get drunk far more quickly than you intended and the results ain't pretty! Even if you drink it slowly you can get drunk quick. It seems innocent enough, but this drink is NOT for the faint of alcohol. You know that whole "Liquor before beer" advice? The Koreans haven't heard of it... *Also, watch those sly Koreans. They love to sneak in a bit more soju than you're expecting when your back is turned!*

What kinds of beer does Korea offer? Unfortunately, Korea is a not the best place in the world if you are a picky about your beer. If you're desperate for world beer the supermarket is your best option. There is always a large alcohol section and you can buy several world brands in singles. Sometimes you can find a sixer of Heineken or even Budweiser, but it's a bit pricey. However, Korea does offer about 5 domestic brands: Cass, Hite, OB Blue, Max, and Black Stout. Cass and Hite are the most popular and they are your basic lagers. OB Blue and Max tend to be a little more malty in flavor and in my opinion taste a little better. Black Stout, as you're probably guessed, is a stout, and while this will probably tide you over until you return to your native country don't make the mistake of expecting an award winning stout. It is extremely watery and has a hint of sweetness that is overdone. The one truly awesome thing about Korean beer is the price. It is so cheap it's insane. At the supermarket you can purchase a 1.6 liter bottle of any of the above mentioned for around 3,500 won (2.75$ US) and about 5,200 won (4$ US) at any 24 hour store. But I must warn you that if you choose to drink at a bar the price of everything, as with everywhere else, goes up to astronomical proportions. However, you can get a draft beer for 2,500won (1.75$ US) in almost every bar. Oh, and another thing. Korea is full of 24 stores and you'll never run out of places to buy alcohol if you're having a night out.

What other kinds of alcohol do they have? There's makoli which is Korean rice wine. It is milky white and has a similar consistency. Shake it up gently before you drink because it tends to settle at the bottom of the bottle. It's a bit on the sweet side but still has that twang of alcohol flavor. There are several other "wines" that Korea makes from rice but they are not really wine. They are more akin to liquor. They also make wine-liquor from fruits such as raspberries (delicious!!!) and small green plums called Mae-shil (매실) which is truly awesome. These range in price so shop around and consider your options.

What is Soju English? All Koreans get educated in English language while in school. Until recently it had not been very comprehensive, made up mostly of learning textbook phrases, basic grammar, and a few essential vocabulary words. Most Koreans you come into contact with will not know much English. But those who do are usually not confident in the speaking skills, because the education system has focused for so long on grammar. Oh, they can READ English very well, even write it enough to be understood. But speaking remains a true difficulty so they will be reluctant to speak to you. However, once you get a little liquid courage into them the Koreans start to speak as much English as they know and with ease. Because their inhibitions are dropped they turn out to speak far better than they realized. However, don't be surprised the next day if the party animal who wouldn't shut up last night over a few bottles of soju and beer turns back into the shy person giving you a quick hello while scurrying away. That's just Soju English!

Why is drinking so important in Korean culture? Korean society has a very distinct hierarchy and strict social code. There are certain ways to greet, speak, and interact with your elders, your juniors, and your equals. Any deviation is considered a terrible affront and is not easily forgiven. This is true in everyday life and especially in business and the workplace. Foreigners are usually given a little leeway, but after you have been here for a few months you are expected to conform. If you do not, you lose the respect of those around you and your time in Korea will be made that much more difficult. But that's another story... So, drinking! Because the social standard is so strict interactions between people can be stiff and uncomfortable. It's difficult to get to know someone in that kind of environment, and Koreans know that very well. Drinking is seen as a way to get to know another person outside of that confining situation. It's a social lubricant that can take most of the uneasiness of formality out of the general social equation. Of course, you must remain somewhat polite while drinking (ie. remember how to pour and receive!!) but other than that Koreans really let their hair down. They are very physically affectionate people (between the same sex only!) and they only get more so when drinking. This is also seen as acceptance and friendly affection. If a Korean invites you to drink it is because they want to get to know you better. Take the offer and have a good time!

How do you pay? Generally, the elders are supposed to pay because it is their social duty to take care of the younger people. In return, the younger people make sure that the elders' drinks are filled and cook the food. It also depends on who does the asking out. If a Korean asks you to join him/her for dinner and/or drinks, then he/she is expected to pay. If you are the one doing the asking out then you are expected to take care of the bill. But, as times change, more and more people are going dutch, especially when it comes to foreigners. It has been my personal experience to either pay or be paid for because the vast majority of my friends are Koreans and not foreigners. And even though these rules are set up, you will still see Koreans fighting over who pays the bill. This is a constant battle between me and my Korean friends. This is considered polite in its way, but be prepared for the consequences of winning the argument...

Ok, so that concludes this part of Korean drinking. Should anything else come to my attention I'll be sure to add it. So go forth, drink, be merry, and beware of the soju!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!