GOAL SURPRISE: What do you get when you mix 7-11 and Soju in a park?
We spent most of our short stay in Seoul with soju in hand. The city of Seoul runs on soju and good vibes. We had no problem jumping into the soju-infused lifestyle and our christening began the first night in a random park. Hongdae is an area that was recommended to us and we ended up visiting this place twice. The first night was the most memorable.
After walking around this neighborhood and hitting a couple restaurants and bars, we stumbled upon a little park. Music was being played by random groups of friends, all-consuming soju, encircling the park. In the middle of the park was a couple friends that rigged their own karaoke speakers/microphone and serenaded the crowd. These guys were probably in their early 20’s but they sounded as if they had been singing their entire lives. It was quite impressive.
The park consisted of all random types of people. The drunken young couple making out, the college kids getting rowdy, American expats meeting with their new local friends, the old town drunk, and us, a visiting couple just trying to soak it all in.
We were blown away by how good the guys singing karaoke was and even more blown away that this is a typical Monday night in Seoul. We were slowly realizing that we didn’t need to go to fancy bars or restaurants. All we needed was visit a to 7-11, grabbed a couple bottles of soju (cheaper than a bottle of water) and hung out in the park.
Eventually, like we always do, we struck up a conversation with a group of friends from the area. One guy was a California-born Mormon who was teaching English at a local high school. The other, a local Seoul resident currently in college but was searching for a blonde American girlfriend and envied everything about the USA.
These guys filled us in on everything Seoul. From the origins of soju to the tech industry conglomerates. We were having a good time, good drinks and were listening to great karaoke. Then all of a sudden, what turned out to be the local drunk (truly an understatement in this city), took center-stage in front of the karaoke group and began his own renditions of classic songs. Though he did not grace us with complete songs, he did his best to drunkenly sing the only line he knew. We got one-liners from Bob Marley, The Beatles, and even Queen!
It didn’t take long for him to rip his shirt off and encourage everyone else to fill in his missing-lyrics. Nobody helped. The boos began to rain down but the town jester was not having it. The poor guy began “wiping” his butt with his shirt in a show of defiance, but somehow, somehow he tripped and hurt himself. Still center-stage now clutching his foot, the karaoke continued. Someone must have complained about our town jester because cops soon rolled in to question the man.
Are we even allowed to drink in the park?
Will they issue tickets?
Our new friends quickly squashed any fears and reassured us that the cops will do nothing. Sure enough, after our drunken lyricists begged on his hands and knees to the cops, they abruptly left and everyone resumed debauchery. That was of course until the Russians moved in. Oh yes, no party's complete without a group of Russians singing and dancing.
Tattooed, drunk, and loud, the Russians hijacked the party.
The karaoke group began to pack up because they were drowned out by the singing and dancing of the Russians. Nobody knew what they were saying but they took center-stage and took over the party. Some people were upset and left the area, but not us. We enjoyed it. When do you ever have the chance to listen to karaoke in a park, drinking soju with locals and a Mormon from California, while Russians are signing and dancing to their native tunes? It was an otherworldly experience and one we had no idea was gonna hit us. But that’s the way it goes. We had to put ourselves out there and just sit back and watch the world unfold in front of us. We could have easily left because the drunken actions of the towny or ran out of there because the 2nd Cold War was beginning right in front of us. We didn’t.
We had one of the best nights of our lives just hanging out in a park for a couple hours in Seoul. The park was littered with people from all walks of life but the one thing we all had in common that night, besides the love of rockin'-karaoke, was soju. Well, soju and the acknowledgment that we didn’t care where everyone was from. Everyone just wanted to have a good time.
The way it should be.