Though the imbibing of soju is de rigueur at restaurants of an evening, most people do their serious drinking in bars and “hofs”. There are a quite incredible number of both in the cities, though the majority can be surprisingly empty, even at weekends – you may wonder how most of them stay in business. Hofs, pronounced more like “hop”, are bright, booth-filled places serving beer (maekju; 맥주) by the bucketload. The main beers are Cass, OB and Hite; prices are more or less the same for each, starting at about W2500 for a 500cc glass. Quite fascinating are the three- or five-litre plastic jugs of draught beer (saeng-maekju; 생맥주), which often come billowing dry ice and illuminated with flashing lights. The downside of such places is that customers are pretty much obliged to eat as well as drink; you’ll be given free snacks, but customers are expected to order something from the menu.
Bars are almost invariably dark, neon-strewn dens; unlike in hofs, customers are not usually expected to eat and tend to take roost in an extensive cocktail menu; beer will still be available, in draught or bottled form. Each city has one or more main “going-out” district, with the most raucous to be found outside the rear entrances of the universities (which maintain a veneer of respectability by keeping their main entrances free of such revelry). Most cities have at least one resident expat bar; these are usually the best places for foreigners to meet fellow waeguk-in or new Korean friends. Often surrounded with tables and chairs for customer use, convenience stores are equally great places to meet new mates, and actually the best hunting grounds for local drinks. They also sell bottles of foreign wine for W7000 and up, though special mention must be made of a local variety named Jinro House Wine: this curiously pink liquid, which may or may not be derived from grapes, costs about W2000 per bottle and can only be described as “comedy wine” as it tends to give people the giggles.