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11 Korean Drinking Games To Play With Your Friends and Colleagues

Jason Park
Published by: Jason Park
Last updated:

When Americans talk about drinking games they usually refer to something like “Quarters,” “Beer Ping Pong” or even some roundabout version of drunken Jenga.

But in Korea, drinking games go to a whole new level. There are literally hundreds of drinking games, but here we’ll show you 11 of the most popular.

Before diving in, it’s important to understand that drinking is a major part of Korean social culture. While they will enjoy beer, wine, vodka and whiskey, the main attraction for drinking games is soju.

This is a distilled rice liquor that’s very versatile with a taste that sits between sake and vodka.

Quick Overview

  1. Basic Rules & Guidelines
  2. Bottle Cap – a good starter game
  3. Up & Down – this is perfect for right after Bottle Cap
  4. The Submarine (or Titanic) – a game of chicken involving alcohol
  5. The Spoon Game – ideal when everyone is already three sheets to the wind
  6. Babo – game involving the numbers one to five
  7. Chopsticks – guessing game about other players
  8. Sam-Yuk-Gu or 3-6-9 – a game that focuses on coordination and numbers
  9. Hello Cleopatra – the rules utilize a song 
  10. King – Order-following game
  11. Secrets – Similar to “Telephone”
  12. Ttalgi (or Strawberry) – Clapping on beat that ascends and descends

Basic Rules – Guidelines

Before drinking with Koreans, understand that not only are they in love with their most prized liquor, soju, they are also very social, friendly and intelligent. In fact, many Koreans spend their entire lives becoming human calculators and can do equations in their head much faster than most people from the United States.

The reason why this is important is because many drinking games involve a type of math that will put people from the West to shame. So, it’s imperative that you watch a few rounds before delving into any of the more complicated ones. But, there are some that are easy enough as a starting point.

Order & Hierarchy

Also, there’s a specific order and hierarchy in which they pour drinks. First and foremost, you do not pour for yourself. Other people are always to pour your drink for you. It will always start with the youngest person in the group and end with the eldest.

Deciding Who Starts the Game

Drinking games can start on hierarchy this way as well. But, if everyone is basically the same age, they will use the game “Rock-Paper-Scissors” to decide who goes first. From there, the particular drinking game will dictate the subsequent playing order.

Singing Is Integral to Drinking Games

With the copious consumption of alcohol come singing and most drinking games incorporate some kind of song. But none is more popular than the one sung to encourage people to drink upon losing the round of any given game.

KoreanPhonetic PronunciationEnglish Translation
마셔라 마셔라
마셔라 마셔라
Mashyeora Mashyeora
Mashyeora Mashyeora
Drink, Drink! Drink, Drink!
술이 들어간다Sul-i deureogandaThe alcohol goes down
쭉 쭉쭉쭉쭉
쭉 쭉쭉쭉쭉
jjuk jjuk jjuk jjuk jjuk
jjuk jjuk jjuk jjuk jjuk
[this is the sound of glugging down alcohol]
언제까지 어깨춤을Eonje-ggaji eoggae-chum-eulUntil when we are going to do
추게할거야chugehal-geoyaThe dance of the shoulders
내어깨를 봐!Nae eogge-rul bwa!Look at my shoulders!
탈골됐잖아!Tal-gol dwaet-janh-a!They are dislocated!
탈골! 탈골 탈골 탈골!Tal-gol! Tal-gol Tal-gol Tal-gol!Dislocated! Dislocated, Dislocated, Dislocated!

The Black Knight

As you will soon see, these drinking games can get out of hand. Naturally, after many bottles of Soju, it becomes clear who can hold their liquor and who succumbs to their buzz. So, to make things easier and prevent blackouts, there’s a savior concept called the “Black Knight.”

This savior is usually a person who’s more sober or capable of holding their liquor to help out another who’s three sheets to the wind. All it means is that the Black Knight takes the next drink for the inebriated person if they’re clearly unable to consume more alcohol.

The person receiving the favor from the “Black Knight” must do something in exchange like getting soda, snacks or ice cream.

1. Bottle Cap

This is one of the easiest drinking games for newcomers to play. Not only does it provide the best chances at winning, it also starts off a night of drinking games. The first is taking off the cap attached to the bottle of Soju. This is metal and you twist the end until it’s straight.

You flick the dangling end with your finger to slowly unfurl this little wrapper from the bottle. You pass this around and everyone gets a chance to flick it. Whoever achieve the last flick to open the bottle makes everyone else drink.

2. Up & Down

Up & Down is a good game after Bottle Cap. It’s basically a number guessing game. Whoever wins Bottle Cap, after telling everyone to drink, takes note of the number located inside the cap. This person gives two numbers ranging between one and 50.

Everyone then takes turns guessing what the number is. The person doesn’t say anything except use a thumbs up or thumbs down to indicate the number is higher or lower (respectively). Whoever guesses right wins the round and everyone else must drink.

3. The Submarine (or Titanic)

Titanic, or the Submarine, is an alcoholic version of the game of chicken combining gravity with perception and natural reflexes. This works best sitting around a table for large groups of people.

Whoever won the previous drinking game pours a tall glass with beer but only halfway. An empty soju glass (or a shot glass) carefully goes into the beer so that it floats. Then, everyone takes turns pouring in a small amount of soju into the shot glass contained within the tall glass of beer.

It goes around the table continuously until someone pours enough for the shot glass to sink to the bottom of the beer. Whoever does this loses and must drink the whole glass of both the beer and soju.

4. The Spoon Game

The Spoon Game is good for when everyone is getting buzzed and losing their cognitive abilities. The idea is to sit in a circle with everyone having a wooden spoon set in front of them. The winner of whatever game came before calls whether people should have a majority of flipped or non-flipped spoons.

The master of the round then counts to three and everyone flips their spoons according to the master’s the rules. Whoever flips (or not) the most spoons via the established rules wins the game.

5. Babo

Otherwise known as “Fool,” Babo is a game based on the way in which children refer to each other but with an adult-like twist that focuses on alcohol. First, understand that this isn’t an offensive word, it’s more of an endearing term.

The winner of the previous game starts it off by calling a number between one and five. But, they show an entirely different number with their hand. The next player then shows the same number of fingers the previous player called yet calls out a different number.

This continues on until someone either says the same number of fingers they’re holding up or they don’t say the number of fingers the previous player held up.

6. Sam-Yuk-Gu or 3-6-9

One of the easier drinking games that involve math, 3-6-9 is pretty basic and fun once you get the hang of it. The winner (or loser) of the previous game calls the first number, which is one. Each person then counts the next number up in successive order.

Whenever anyone reaches a number with a 3, 6 or 9, they have to clap and then take a drink. If anyone messes up the clapping combined with the counting, then they must drink. Either way, the counting starts over again.

However, it’s important to note that you have to clap for how many times a 3, 6 or 9 appear in the number. For instance, you clap once if the number is 6 but twice if it’s 39. However, given the sheer volume of alcohol involved with this game, counting usually never gets that high.

7. The Chopsticks Game

The Chopsticks Game is good for after eating some food. As everyone sits around the table, one person asks a question that refers to another within the group. Everyone then grabs their chopsticks and points them at the person who they think best befits the answer.

Whoever has the most chopsticks pointed at them must drink, regardless of whether the answer is correct or not. Then the answer person gives the next question.

8. Hello Cleopatra

This is one of those games that incorporate the use of a song as part of the rules. “Hello Cleopatra,” pronounced Ann-yee-ong Cleopatra, has a special arrangement of lyrics that everyone must sing. Everyone takes a turn signing it, but they have to belt it out at a higher pitch than the player before them. 

In fact, “Wanna One,” a K-Pop group, shows you how to sing the song in a number of videos through various social media outlets.

KoreanPhonetic PronunciationEnglish Translation
안녕, 클레오파트라Annyeong Ku-le-o-pa-teu-raHello Cleopatra
세상에서 제일 가는Sesang-eso Je-il Ga-neunThe greatest potato chip
포테이토 칩Pote-ito ChipIn the world

9. King

To play “King,” there must be at least three people and a deck of cards or pack of cigarettes. For the cards, remove a King, Ace, Two and Three – the suit doesn’t matter. Otherwise, write K, 1, 2 and 3 on a cigarette. There should be one for each.

Then, the dealer shuffles the cards or cigarettes and everyone chooses one but they keep their number a secret. But, whoever gets the King should announce it to the rest of the players. The King then gets to order specific tasks for those holding the 1, 2 and 3. These tasks could be pushups or touching your nose, for example. 

If someone refuses any particular task or given order, they then have to drink a shot of soju. The cards or cigarettes get mixed up again and the game starts over.

10. Secrets

Another simple game, “Secrets” is similar to the American game of “Telephone.” The players sits around a table and the first person whispers a question into the ear of the person on their right. This question relates to one of the other players at the table. The receiver of the question has to pick out the person who’s the answer.

If they guess wrong, the receiver has to drink a shot of soju or whiskey. If they guess the person correctly, then the person who’s the answer of the question must drink a shot of soju. They then ask the person to their right a question about another person in the group.

11. Ttalgi or Strawberry Game

The Strawberry Game, or Ttalgi in Korean, starts with everyone performing a specific series of pats, claps and hand gestures done on specific beats of the accompanying song. While there can be many variations, it goes generally goes a little something like this:

  • First, both hands pat the lap
  • Second, clap hands together
  • Third, the left thumb sticks outward
  • Fourth, the right thumb sticks outward

Everyone does this arrangement of movements on the beat throughout the duration of the game. But, everyone’s performance of the moves precedes saying “Ttalgi.” It sounds easy enough, but when alcohol comes into the picture, it becomes rather silly and challenging.

This is because each subsequent player says “Ttalgi” the number of times as required by the round. This means the first person says, “Ttalgi,” the second person say, “Ttalgi Ttalgi” and so on until the ninth iteration. Then the counting goes back down and all of this happens rather quickly, so it gets confusing and discombobulated fast.

Conclusion

As you can see, even though the drinking games are simple in concept, they can become quite the smorgasbord once everyone has consumed copious amounts of soju. But, if you’re out drinking with your Korean friends, this is why you should avoid ones involving intricate math and stick to what’s easiest.

About The Author

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Jason Park

Jason has been living in Seoul over 4 years and during that time, he has experienced a lot of the city's quirks and charms. He loves to write about his experiences and share them with others who are interested in learning more about South Korea.

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