After 2 Years, 24-Hour Drinking Is Back in Seoul

Photos from drunken and sleepless nights in South Korea.

For many South Koreans, life begins at night. Places in the capital Seoul are open all night, with many bars, clubs, and restaurants welcoming customers until the sun rises, if not all 24 hours of the day. People binge drink soju or beer seeking to relieve daytime stress.

Young men on a night out in Bolero bar in Itaewon, Seoul on April 30. Photo: Yunbeom Baek

Young people on a night out in Bolero bar in Itaewon, Seoul on April 30. Photo: Yunbeom Baek

You’ll notice this most in bustling nightlife hotspots like Itaewon, where you’ll find vibrant bars and nightclubs; Eulji-ro, famous among young locals for its newtro style bars and restaurants; and Sangsu-dong, which university students frequent.

Of course, all this came to a halt during the pandemic, when the South Korean government required establishments to practice social distancing rules and abide by a curfew that would vary anywhere between 9 p.m. and midnight, depending on the number of daily COVID-19 cases.

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But now that pandemic restrictions are loosening, nightlife is back. 

On Monday, South Korea lifted its outdoor mask mandate for the first time since the start of the pandemic. Last month, the country also lifted all COVID-19 social distancing rules including the business curfew introduced in March 2020, in an effort to return to pre-pandemic life.

Now, people are going out all days of the week, relishing the freedom to drink without worrying about closing time and being kicked out. (Though many still like keeping their masks on).

Some are dreading having to, once again, drink with their bosses and co-workers after long work hours, while others still worry about Omicron subvariants and secondary and tertiary infections.

But most are just happy to get nightlife back after two years.

People drinking in Pojangmacha Street, Jongno, Seoul on April 28. Photo: Yunbeom Baek

People gathered in outdoor bars and restaurants in Nogari Alley, Euljiro 3(sam)-ga, in Seoul on April 29. Photo: Yunbeom Baek

People drinking in Pojangmacha Street, Jongno, Seoul on April 28. Pojangmachas are small tents or street stalls that sell street food like chicken feet with soju and beer. Photo: Yunbeom Baek

Koreans drinking soju and eating yukhoe, a raw meat dish, in Gwangjang Market, one of the oldest and biggest traditional markets in Seoul, on April 29. Photo: Yunbeom Baek

Green soju bottles outside a bar in Pojangmacha Street, Jongno, Seoul on April 29. Photo: Yunbeom Baek

Young Koreans partying at Modeci nightclub in Sangsu, Seoul on May 1. Photo: Yunbeom Baek

A DJ plays music at Modeci nightclub in Sangsu, Seoul on May 1. Photo: Yunbeom Baek

A young woman fills a shot glass at Paper rooftop bar in Itaewon, Seoul on May 1. Photo: Yunbeom Baek

People dancing at Shelter nightclub in Itaewon, Seoul on May 1. Photo: Yunbeom Baek

Follow Junhyup Kwon on Twitter.

Tagged:

South Korea, SEOUL, Asia, drinking, Nightlife, Clubbing

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