If you have ever been in Korea, chances are you have been out drinking. And if you have ever been out drinking in Korea, chances are you've been offered a miracle hangover cure by one of your Korean drinking buddies. Now there are very few things in this world which I like more than a good old binge drinking and during my time in Korea, I've had the opportunity to put several of these remedies to the test. The results of these investigation are presented below, results, while as objective as possible are subject to what statisticians usually refer to as the alocohol-induced-blurry-memory bias. According to this article, 6 out of 10 Koreans use some form of hangover cure when drinking. Since the early 90s it has become a huge market, worth over 100 billion wons. Old people tend to take them the morning after, people in their thirties take them before drinking and people in their twenties take them after drinking but before sleeping. Most products actually tell you to opt for either one of the last two solutions. Prices vary depending on where you buy the drinks, but usually range from 3000 to 5000 wons.
1. Dawn 808 (여명808)
Everything about the Dawn 808 can excudes quality. Maybe it's the guy's face, maybe it's the "Great Grand Prix Award" or how it is usually advertised as 명품상 (extra fine product)... It's also made solely with herbs and 100% natural, which might explain why it tastes so bad. But as the Korean saying goes "A good medicine is bitter to the mouth" (좋은 약은 입에 쓰다). For its unvaluable contribution to the competitiveness of the Korean economy and to the advancement of science, the inventor of Dawn 808 was decorated in 2008 with the Gold Tower Order of Industrial Service Merit, the highest-class industrial award in Korea. It is also an international hit and is currently sold in 11 countries worldwide. 808 is the number of experiences he unsuccessfully conducted before finding the right formula. You have to give it up to a guy that can get drunk 808 times just for the good of mankind.
In spite of these flattering appearances, the actual effects are pretty limited. I used this before a pretty long flight and after a night of heavy drinking, hoping it would cure my raging hangover. Which it did not. The flight was a pretty unpleasant experience for me, and probably even more so for the flight attendants who had to dispose of my sick sacks every twenty minutes.
2. Morning Care (모닝케어)
The commercials for Morning Care make it look like you'll be in better shape after drinking than when you were sober. Which is something I am willing to believe in. The active ingredient is Milk Thistle, a flower used in other treatments against cirrhosis and gallbladder pathologies. The company's website has a "Drunken Talk (sic.)" section with a forum where you can go and share your stories about how Morning Care saved you from a bad hangover.
Well here's mine. My buddy and I won a case of twenty-something of these guys at arm-wrestling contest in a bar in Kyodae (교대). On our way back, we figured we might as well drink the whole case, that way we'd feel superfresh the next day. And we actually did: no headache, no dry mouth. Though we both experienced a pretty bad case of diarrhea. I guess the lesson here is that even when it comes to hangover cure, you should always drink responsibly.
Final grade: 7/10
3. Thank you (Ddaeng Kyu / 땡큐)
I tried a special version of this drink, called Thank you +2. There were two pills in the cap of the bottle which you had to gulp down with the drink. The pills were HUGE and triggered my gag reflex which made me puke before I even started drinking seriously.
4. Doctor Zero
Now anything with the word "Doctor" in it tends to have my trust. So when I first tried this I felt confident I could sleep over at my girlfriend's place without making a fool of myself. I collapsed as soon as I got home only to wake up a few hours later. The lights were on and I started complaining about the noise she was making. It took me a couple of minutes before I realized my she was cleaning her apartment because I had puked everywhere in my sleep without even waking up. Screw you, Doctor Zero.
5. Condition (컨디션)
This is the market leader. The first time I was offered this I wondered how a conditioner could help my liver digest the excessive amount of alcohol I had just ingested. The taste is sweet and candy-like and despite the strange name, I must say it actually works quite well and has saved my drunken ass on a number of occasions.
6. Anti-hangover gum
This gum is supposed to cure your hangover and to give you a fresh breath. Like any gum, it actually just makes your mouth dry and stinky after a while. Plus, chewing on gum is definitely not something someone with a hangover-headache would want to do.
7. Hangover Soup - Haejangguk (해장국)
Hot, spicy, greasy, in one word: delicious. The tradition of Haejangguk goes back centuries. Haejangguk places in Seoul open until really early in the morning and this is imo, the best way to cure a hangover. There are several different types of Haejangguk but the version is ox-blood is a personal favorite :-)