by Martin Jack (Editor-in-Chief / English version)
Welcome to the first edition of SoolCoree, the only bilingual periodical featuring both the traditional alcohol of Korea and the contemporary scene of Korean artistic expression.
On my first visit to Korea ten years ago, I enjoyed the novelty of asking for ‘beer’ and getting it no questions asked, where to do the same at a pub in my native Britain would be to evoke at the least, a quizzical look. No fuss, no hassle, no choice…perhaps the real selection would lie in the traditional alcohol menu at the bar, or rather, hybrid bar/restaurant, for in Korea plates between the glasses is de rigueur. A pattern emerged…as with beer, I could succeed in ordering the range of traditional Korean alcohols by request of type alone: calls of ‘soju’ would bring forth what would become an all too familiar green bottle and requests for ‘makgeolli’ (a milky, sparkling rice wine) would prompt the appearance of an oversized copper teapot. Novelty gave way to boredom, though, ten years on, Korea’s traditional alcohol scene is beginning to come out of the shadows to take its place in the sun. Around today’s Seoul, bars dedicated to makgeolli flourish, with drinking establishments – both economical and premium – offering an unprecedented range of choice and demonstrating a palpable enthusiasm and knowledge for their stores. A new-found appreciation amongst locals and expats is blossoming and attitudes are becoming increasingly discerning.
It is this range and tradition, this breadth of inquiry and enthusiasm, of and for sool, in both the word’s definitions, ‘traditional alcohol’ and ‘art’, that we aim to convey and explore in SoolCoree. This introductory issue will feature articles providing insight and perspective – from both local and international voices – on the burgeoning traditional alcohol scenes to be discovered across the peninsula, as well as spotlights on the modern artistic scenes – that of performance, of dance, poetry, and music…of expression and creation – which in practice and definition are interconnected in the Korean experience.
We hope you enjoy and find inspiration in this first edition of SoolCoree and join us on the journey to discover the very best the Land of the Morning Calm has to offer today’s discerning and expressive imbiber.