Why is this interesting? - The Drinking Culture Edition

On Seoul, drinking culture, and the shifting patterns of business

Colin here. In another time, client work frequently brought me to Seoul, Korea. It’s a fantastic city to visit as a tourist, but as a businessperson, it’s slightly rougher. The reason? In addition to jet lag and the toils of long-haul travel, most business was done after hours at dinners, drinks, karaoke, etc. It was a part of the culture and to turn it down was not only rude, but a missed opportunity to build rapport with important clients. Nights were where things actually happened. In fact, it wasn’t uncommon in board rooms for executives to fall asleep during your lovingly crafted pitch after over-indulging the evening before. This, of course, is dangerous for productivity, so much so that companies like Samsung tried to crack down on late-night culture through a system of mandates that laid out how many post-work drinks you should have and when you were meant to be back home. The code was 119: 1 venue, 1 type of booze, last order at 9pm.

Why is this interesting?

Well, it appears the times are changing (to the delight of my liver). According to a recent piece in the Economist

...Changing work patterns and social tastes are pushing noraebang (“singing rooms”, as they are known in South Korea) out of business. The government recently restricted the working week to 52 hours, cutting the scope for late-night gallivanting. Growing awareness among employers of sexual harassment and other bad behaviour in the dark basements means that more and more dinners wrap up early, or conversation is continued over non-alcoholic drinks at late-night coffee shops. It is slowly becoming more acceptable for employees to say no to group activities after work and spend their spare time alone or with friends.

What’s more, it has put a serious dent on the businesses that provided the late-night revelry. The paper claims “1,400 shut in 2018, and 650 went during the first quarter of this year alone.”

I’m sure the economics-minded readers of our humble letter (ahem Joe W. and Felix) would also be interested to see how this will correlate to productivity and output. I’m sure family life also will benefit when people aren’t pressured to stay out all night. The karaoke charts, however, are unfazed by these new cultural developments. There’s still a lot of power pop ballads and cheese to last a long long time. (CJN

Car of the Day:

That’s a BMW X6 painted in Vantablack paint, “in which carbon nanotubes are used to create one of the darkest substances on Earth.” It’s so dark that it changes the way light reflects off, taking away most of the dimensionality of the object and can lead to some strange visual effects. Related: Stuart Semple is Winning the Art World Feud Over the Blackest Black. (NRB)  

Quick Links:

  • Adam Curtis on MI5, per yesterday’s WITI on intelligence. Good spot by Parish. (CJN

  • Despite being a key to all birth, we know almost nothing about how the placenta works, something doctors and scientists and trying to change. “Today, for the first time ever, researchers around the world are working with the same intent to demystify the placenta, uncovering the clues it holds to pregnancy and human health. Unlike any other organ, the placenta carries out many diverse functions, and does so simultaneously. Understanding how exactly this new organ grows inside the mother, navigating the maze of her bodily systems to survive and thrive, has major implications for prenatal care but also for other areas of medicine, like immunology and oncology. The science of the placenta matters for everyone.” (NRB)

  • Garrett M. Graff has a good Wired piece on the history of ideas to change nature with nuclear weapons. (NRB)

Thanks for reading,

Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN)