April 21, 2024

The quest for a hangover cure: N.Koreans are just as human as us

Can Northerners stop hangovers with ginseng? Probably not, but the claim tells us a lot

In mid-January we read reports that North Korea had finally cured that most assailing of human conditions: the hangover. It declared that it had replaced sugar with scorched, glutinous rice in its ginseng-based liquor and that one may now imbibe without fear of what may come in the morning. As I read these reports, however, I wondered whether we in the West would actually accept, market or even sell Koryo Liquor? Would Occidental markets find it acceptable to promote such a drink despite its dubious origins

If it were true, it would no doubt be a marvelous boon to the peninsula at large – for drinking in Korea has a long and colorful history, not to mention an intoxicating presence in the modern age. Leonid Petrov, an experienced researcher of North Korean culture, has said that Koreans in the North drink to combat the cold and, importantly, to remain happy as best they can. In a 2013 article for the Atlantic¸ Robert Foyle Hunwick described the drinking culture – the beer, the liquor, the jokes, the songs, the karaoke, the comradery and (of course) the hangovers – in a way that any of us fond of a tipple would all too readily recognize. So, despite what differences may exist on a political or state level, these claims of hangover-free liquor can teach us an important lesson. The people of Pyongyang are essentially no different from you and me: They drink, they laugh and they suffer when the sun rises.

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