Earlier this month, Vice released a video purporting to introduce a “traditional” Korean drink made from human feces. Online in South Korea, people are reportedly not pleased.
The drink is called “ttongsul” (똥술). In the video, Vice Japan’s Yuka Uchida (above) travels to South Korea and acknowledges that “it was hard to find reliable information online” about the drink. However, Uchida says a traditional Korean medicine practitioner named Dr. Lee Chang Soo is “one of the last people” to know how to make the drink. She also interviews young Koreans about ttongsul, and they appear to have no clue what she’s talking about.
OK, to recap: Not much reliable info about ttongsul (there doesn’t even appear to be a Korean wiki page!), one guy claims to be one of the last who can make it, and young Korean people have never heard of it. Sounds… thin.
According to Searchina, people online in South Korea are writing things like, “This insults the dignity of my culture.” One Korean blogger wondered why this was his first time of hearing about this drink. Another commenter called this “imaginary culture,” while yet another added, “I didn’t know what ttongsul was and learned about it from Japanese news.”
“Well, this show Japanese people totally don’t understand Koreans,” wrote one commenter.
Some had heard of it, however. “Ttongsul isn’t a typical drink. I heard it’s a folk remedy for lower back pain, but it’s not popular,” wrote one commenter. Another claimed that the the method of brewing shown in the video was not correct, and one commenter pointed out that there apparently isn’t a single company in the country making the drink.
Online in South Korea, Vice Japan, which is the Japanese offshoot of the U.S. based Vice, is being branded as “the Japanese media.” Thus, the “poo wine” clip is seen as an unfair representation of South Korea by the Japanese media, which carries a whole host of nuances and a long, complex history.
This isn’t the first time in recent memory that ttongsul has caused controversy. The Japanese media has been criticised for unfairly introducing the drink. Online in South Korea, this is actually seen as a way the Japanese “right-wing” mocks and defames Koreans — to imply that today’s Koreans imbibe shit.
The whole topic of the modern day ttongsul is incredibly fishy. Last fall, Japanese site RocketNews, which has covered the drink numerous times, claimed to have purchased two bottles of ttongsul in a dodgy parking lot deal in Jinju. The site stated the ttongsul was made from a child’s feces that was baked in an oven for 30 minutes, soaked in alcohol for two months and then mixed with things like cat bones. This was apparently the “time-honored way” to make the drink, which was described as “odorless.”
The Vice Japan video showed a milky liquid that looked totally different, was made in a very different way, and still apparently smelled like feces.
While the drink might have existed in the past, lots of unusual drinks — and customs — have existed everywhere in the past. That’s perhaps why many people online in Korea think it’s entirely unfair to dredge out a drink that is seemingly irrelevant today that doesn’t seem to be sold to the masses, is unknown by loads of Koreans, and is seemingly irrelevant today. But maybe that’s beside the point?
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