Imagine having a drink with foreign friends in Korea. What Korean drink would you first introduce to them? Most of us would choose soju or beer because they are the most common. People think they represent Korean alcohol. However, there are many more representative traditional liquor types in Korea. These types of liquor are made following old practices all over the country of Korea. At the moment, interested people can see various regional alcoholic drinks in the middle of Seoul city. This SMT reporter visited the Sool Gallery to learn more about these diverse drinks.
Korean Tradition, Sool
In Korea, ‘Sool’ refers to any beverage containing 1% or more alcohol. This includes beer, wine, cocktails, and vodka. While these drinks are enjoyed by many people in Korea, some people are trying to maintain historic Korean traditional drinks. Others wonder why sool is even a tradition in Korea. However, Korean traditional drinks called sool differ from other alcoholic drinks. Sool represents Korean taste, science, and the nation. Throughout the years, people have been preserving the tradition, and as a result, Koreans can still enjoy tastes of the past.
The place where tradition is told, the Sool Gallery, was established by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, and the Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corporation. It serves as a bridge between drink-distilleries and consumers and contributes to local economies. Also, it promotes the cultural value of Korean traditional drinks. While there are several ways of getting to the gallery, the fastest way from Sookmyung Women’s University is by Bus 421, which one can ride from Sookmyung Women’s University Station Exit 7. After getting off at at Gangnam Station bus stop, use a map application to get to the gallery. In total, it will take about 50 minutes.
Find Korea in Sool
This reporter reserved a tasting experience prior to visiting the gallery. Most Sool Gallery programs require pre-reservation. Because the programs are offered in Korean, English, Japanese, and Chinese, it is essential to reserve a time slot and language program beforehand. Even without a reservation, visitors are free to tour the museum and enjoy their own time listening to explanation of its tradition.
The exhibition consists of 5 sections. The first is ‘Four Seasons of Sool’, and the concept is based on Korea’s four seasons. This section briefly introduces how alcohol was made in the past and which sools were drunk during each season. Observing the tools used to make the alcohol in the past, visitors better understand the guide’s explanations. Among all the background information stories, the story of drinking sool in winter was fun. It is said that people in the past made low alcoholic level drinks and drank from childhood. Children drank from an early age hoping to reach adulthood earlier, and adults drink hoping to slow down their aging to feel younger again. In this section, visitors can learn sool’s history with fun. The second section presents traditional types of sool. Traditional Korean alcohol includes Makgeolli or Takju, Yakju, Soju, and Gwasilju(Korean wine). It is interesting to learn the history of each type. Among them, Yakju is a clear alcohol that is formed on the top of Makgeolli once it has matured. In other words, one method produces two types. In the past, grain was scarce, so the government banned the country from drinking sool. Because of the ban, only rich people called Yangban could enjoy a drink, and they avoided constaraint claiming sool was Korean oriental medicine called yak. In this section, most types of traditional alcohol in Korea are displayed, so the atmosphere created by the bottles is beautiful. In addition, the section contains tools used in the refining process, so it was a great chance to learn principles behind sool making. The third section exhibits artisans of sool. Korea started Food Grand Master in 1994 and now has a membership of 69 artisans. Among them, 23 artisans in the field of traditional sool are still working to preserve the history of sool. The fourth section is the drink distillery. A drink distillery is a factory that produces sool, soy sauce, and vinegar. In this section, the guide gave each member of the tour group a map of the drink distilleries so that they could visit freely on our own. The drink distillery program is a tourism product that combines experience and sightseeing. Visitors go to local distilleries and taste various traditional sool together. 30 regional distilleries have been selected to participate in the tourist attraction activity which was founded in 2017. If you are given the opportunity to participate in the activity, this reporter recommends going to a regional distillery and enjoying the experience. The last section is the taste testing of 4 kinds of sool selected as traditional sool recommendations for the month. In this section, this SMT reporter met traditional sool not only by eyes and earsbut also by taste and smell.
The program lasts 30 minutes, from start to tasting. Prior to leaving, there is an opportunity to buy a variety of sool, not just those featured that month. The traditional sool featured each month differ, and the program is carried out in various languages, so visiting the museum with foreign friends could be great experience for the both of you.
Ratings : ★★★★★
It was interesting to learn about sool tradition for the first time. Even if you are familiar with sool tradition, there are still plenty to learn and it will be remembered for a long time. Unlike other exhibitions, the Sool Gallery is an exhibition that utilizes the senses of sight, smell, and taste. This SMT reporter is sure this exhibition will inspire if you take the opportunity to visit it and take pride in the traditions of Korea, which she is sure this exhibition will inspire.