The shit you take the morning after a night of heavy drinking; an important step toward the end of the hangover.
This word is new enough that my Korean husband didn’t realize it was a “thing” until I told him—he thought it was just something we and a few of his friends said. While I’ve found online references (some very strange…) going back to at least the early 2000s, I don’t think it became a “thing” until more recently.
I first heard it in 2014 or 2015 while teaching young adults at the Korea International Trade Association, where a common after-class activity was company-style drinking and where students sometimes came to class rather worse for the wear. (Thanks, NK.)
The word comes, of course, from the combination of sul (술), or alcohol, and ddong (똥, ttong), or poo, both of which are native Korean words (김원표 1947, 정호완 1991 referenced here).
If you’ve experienced sul-ddong, it doesn’t need explanation, and if you haven’t experienced it, you probably don’t want to hear about it. However, in Korea, the concept (and the experience) are as pervasive as, well, soju.
Many young Koreans have their first sul-ddong experience in college. This campus magazine advice feature lists sul-ddong as one of five remedies for surviving a hangover after OT (orientation training), when new college freshmen get drunk (under strong social pressure) with those in the same major. (The other four are haejangguk, semi-pharmaceutical preparations like Condition (컨디션), the hair of the dog, and exercise.)
And sul-ddong isn’t just a college thing. The blogger at “Forty-year-old’s Health Extract Research Center,” for example, tells a reader that sul-ddong works as a hangover remedy and may be a necessary part of the formula—in fact, he adds, he personally finds that sul-ddong provides great relief to his insides post-drinking!
Poo occupies a somewhat different cultural space in Korea than in the West—funny yes, but also cute. There are poo-themed bread shops with poo-shaped bread, colorful poo-shaped statues on a major Seoul thoroughfare, and poo-shaped stuffed angel toys. There’s even a toilet museum in Suwon, just southeast of Seoul, full of statues of people producing poo—check out photos here or here (the source of the image at the top of the page).
So it’s unsurprising that a few folks have opened bars called Sul-ddong (술똥), like the one below in Busan.
A note on romanization: I usually try to stick with McCune-Reischauer except in captions, where I have technical difficulties inserting the breves, but I mean, ddong is just more ddong-ish when spelled with two d’s.