Being a fucking white male living in South Korea, life for me is pretty good and easy here. However, I am well aware that this isn’t true for the vast majority of the native population…in fact, unfortunately societal problems such as mental illness / suicide, alcoholism, an overabundance of bizarre religious cults, mandatory military service (for men), an extremely rigid hierarchical society based on Confucianism, and a torturous education system are just some of the problems that plague what some younger Koreans are calling “Hell Joseon” (“Joseon” being the name of Korea from 1392-1897 CE), or “Hell Korea”. Throw in the constant threat of nuclear obliteration from North Korea (you could literally drive to the DMZ in like an hour and a half from Seoul), geographic isolation, freezing winters, humid-as-fuck summers, and you start to get the picture of how South Korea could be considered kind of a rough place for many who grew up here. Oh, and weed is also extremely illegal here, which is unfortunate as well.
Anyway, some Koreans have actually taken it upon themselves to express these feelings with music that is LITERALLY about Satan, Hell, etc. You know, typical black metal fodder. And yet, although Hell Joseon is no stranger to black metal (as has been clearly demonstrated in previous Black Metal Banchan entries), surprisingly, singing about ol’ Lucifer himself is pretty rare. I’m not exactly sure why this is, and it will be interesting to see how the Korean black metal underground evolves, but for now, let’s delve into the infernal underbelly of all things involving Lord Sathanas in the Land of the Morning Calm!
Ah, good ol’ black metal crust punks Huqueymsaw (pronounced “hook-yum-so”, or 흑염소 if you can read Hangul). They haven’t released a whole lot of material (only 1 EP released a couple years ago at the time of this writing), but it doesn’t take long to gauge what this band is all about. Although their promo pics seem to indicate that they’re perhaps not entirely serious in their allegiance to Lucifer & Co., you wouldn’t necessarily know it based on their music, as they play fast, dirty, raw, sloppy-ass black metal in the vein of Mayhem, Bathory, Hellhammer, etc. I actually saw these dudes play live at a punk/grind show awhile back in Seoul (same show I saw Pyha play twice (with Bamseon Pirates and then later with Gonguri)). Although I was kind of drunk and my memory of the show is kind of hazy, I do remember it being fun and everyone seemed pretty into them for the most part. Their music kind of reminds me of the soundtrack to being really hungover, being in the middle of taking a horrible diarrhea shit, and just wanting to die (which I’m sure is how I felt the next morning after I saw them live!). It’s going to be fun to see where this band goes in the future, as currently they’re the only band here in Korea right now that are playing this style of black metal.
Anyway, I definitely wouldn’t pay $7 (!) for this, which is their asking price for a digital copy on their Bandcamp, but it’s still a fun release and recommended if you like your black metal raw, sloppy, and slightly crusty
Why not check ’em out on their Facebook page?
INFERNAL KOREAN RAMYEON
According to Ramen Rater’s 2016 list of the top 10 spiciest instant noodles in the world, it is no mistake that 6 of the entries are from South Korea. Being somewhat of a masochistic culture that delights in feats of competitive machismo, I’m not surprised that Korea dominates this list. When it comes to spicy ramyeon (or spicy food in general), most Koreans simply don’t give a fuck. “Yeah yeah”, you might be thinking, “I’ve had some of the noodles on this list, they’re not THAT bad!” Obviously, this isn’t the spiciest food in the world, as you can destroy your digestive system with like ghost peppers or some other insane shit, but c’mon! This is the Black Metal Banchan! We’re here to talk junk food and snacks, so is the best I could do! Anyway, by most standards this stuff is pretty damn hot, so take it easy there, Rambo!
Anyway, well be checking out this list with our own BMB countdown concerning the Korean ramen that made it on his list. According to Ramen Rater, this is the hottest of the hot!!
#10. Jinjja Jinjja (진짜 진짜)
Unfortunately, I wasn’t too impressed with this stuff. The noodles were kind of weak and the broth was spicy, sure, but it just didn’t have a very powerful taste, which is what I expected (still was overall pretty tasty though). At first I thought that maybe this was trying to be a spicier version of Shin Ramyeun (the Coca Cola Classic of the Korean ramen world), but honestly it seems to be at about the same level of spiciness if you ask me. The more I ate it, however, the more I noticed that it has kind of a “nutty” aftertaste. Eventually I found out that that was Jinjja Jinjja’s “thing”- spicy Korean ramen with a hint of peanuts. Original idea, but the execution just wasn’t there for me. Sorry guys!
Broth is pretty good! Very similar to Shin Ramyeun except for that vaguely nutty taste that lingers in the background.
#8. Super Junior Habanero Jjamppong (슈퍼주니어 하바네로 짬뽕)
OK, so the first thing that came to my attention when I tried this stuff was that apparently e-mart has teamed up with S.M. Entertainment so that their house ramen brands Habanero Ramyun (see #1) and Habanero Jjambbong are now being promoted by the K-pop boy band Super Junior. This is kind of funny for a number of reasons… first, when I think of ramen that is supposed to be so spicy that it will absolutely annihilate your bowels, Super Junior is about the least appropriate musical group to promote this kind of snack. In my opinion, f(x) would have been an infinitely better choice because A) they’re “spicy” in the sense that they’re “sexy“, “sassy“, and transgressive in the sense that they “challenge gender stereotypes” with their image (specifically, Amber), etc. Also, I would think that spicy food would be something that would be associated with a more “dangerous”/”bad boy” musical group like maybe Big Bang or something? I don’t know…
Anyway, as for the ramen itself, it’s pretty tasty! However, it’s definitely not as hot as some of the others on this list (like Teumsae or Buldalk Bokkemmyeon), and I also wouldn’t recommend this over some of the more “legit” jjambbong ramyun out there like Jin Jambbong or Mat Jjambbong, but you could definitely do worse!!
#4. Teumsae Ramyun (틈새 라면)
Hoooooly shit…now THIS is some spicy shit. It doesn’t take long before you really start feeling the heat. It doesn’t fuck around. That being said, unfortunately, it also isn’t really that special besides just being damn spicy. It just kind of tastes like an angrier, more intense Shin Ramyun, which is basically the Coca Cola: Classic of Korean ramyeun. It’s even got similar a similar garnish packet with little bits of veggies and mushrooms. I’d say the weakest part is unfortunately the noodles. While they’re totally fine in terms of just generic ramen noodles, Don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad at all! But it just doesn’t take it to the next level in terms of taste. Apparently, this is the signature ramyun of some famous restaurant here in Korea that has ludicrously spicy food or something, and based on this snack, I’d believe that their food isn’t to be fucked with if you have a sensitive stomach.
Oh, and I guess it goes without saying that this gave me some pretty brutal diarrhea that I’m still feeling days later 🙁
#3. BULDALK BOKKEUMMYEON (불닭볶음면)
Ah yes, the mighty Buldalk Bokkeummyeon (roughly translates to “fire chicken stir-fried noodles” in English). According to Ramen Rater, this (in his opinion, I guess? I don’t know how scientific his lists are) comes in at #3 on his “spiciest of 2016” list. With what is either brilliant marketing or genuine buzz, YouTube is seemingly filled with countless videos of people from all over the world trying to eat this stuff. Anyway, all that being said, even though I know that it’s got to be terrible for you, I fucking love this stuff.
First, it doesn’t taste like any other ramyeon or instant noodles out there. Therefore, given its amazing taste and originality, I consider this to be the greatest ramen of all time.
As popular/notorious as this snack is in the world, there seems to be very little, if any, promotion by Samyang in terms of online advertisements or TV commercials. I asked one of my Korean coworkers what the deal was with their lack of promotion or advertising, and she said that actually that’s kind of Buldalk Bokkeumyeon’s “thing”- they’re all about word-of-mouth promotion only, giving no fucks about TV/web commercials or anything like that. So, the noodle’s popularity/success and global notoriety is almost completely due to YouTube vloggers, Korean bloggers,
It may not be the most tr00 or orthodox Korean ramyeun on the block, but no fucks given, this is probably my favorite ramyeon of all time.
But wait! Did you know that actually Samyang actually just released a bunch of variations on the classic Buldalk Bokkeummyeon this year?! Check it out:
BULDALK BOKKEUMTANGMYEON (불닭볶음탕면)
Taking it to the next level with jjambbong noodles (instead of the typical ramen noodles that we’re all familiar with), this version is similar to the original, except it’s in soup form, as opposed to just the noodles. So, you may be thinking, “what the fuck is the point of this?” That’s a good question, because you would think that you could just make the original version and just not pour out the water after cooking the noodles. However, the first time I tried Buldalk Bokkeummyeon in Korea, I actually accidentally did this because I didn’t realize you were supposed to pour out the water, and so I just cooked it up like regular ramen and it tasted like shit. I’m not exactly sure what they did differently to make it work this time around, but it reminds me a lot of eating jjambbong ramyeun but with that signature Buldalk Bokkeummyeon taste that I can’t get enough of. Still though, I prefer the original, even though this is, of course, still really damn good. I can’t explain it, there’s just something about the original that is missing from this version.
Cheese Buldalk Bokkeumyeon (치즈불닭볶음면)
I thought this was going to be really gross. I was imagining like a combination of Buldalk Bokkemmyeon with like gross Easy Mac cheese or something like that. That being said, it really wasn’t that bad, and honestly there was only really a hint of the cheese taste. Also, don’t be fooled by the packaging, it doesn’t look at all like what’s pictured there (it just looks like regular Buldalk Bokkeumyeon). So, if you want to enjoy the delicious taste of Buldalk Bokkeumyeon but are stuck with this, don’t panic! It’s basically the same thing, it’s just that this has a slightly cheesy taste that doesn’t really interfere too much with the main experience of having your mouth set on fire.
Cool Buldalk Bokkeumyeon (쿨 불닭볶음면)
Well, I’m not really sure what else I expected… it just tastes like cold Buldalk Bokkemyeon! However, personally what I really enjoy about the traditional Buldalk Bokkeumyeon experience is that it is JUST the noodles and very little in the way of soup or liquid… but with this stuff, because it’s meant to be eaten cold it’s a lot more “wet” in terms of liquid. I suppose it’s also debatable that, because of the excess liquid from the ice that you would use to cool the noodles, it’s a “less spicy” experience as well…
Anyway, it was still quite good! Just not my style.
“Wulf, this isn’t even ramen. What the fuck is the deal?”
I was against trying this for a long time because I think it’s the concept of eating dry ramen is weird. Yeah, I know, people do it all the time back home or whatever if they’re too lazy and/or are unable to cook, but it’s just not my style. That being said, because of this segment, I decided to just go for it and try this snack, which is an offshoot of Buldalk Bokkeummyeon simply called “Buldalk” (불딝), or “Fire Chicken”, which is basically just a dried ramen block that you crunch up and then add the spicy flavoring packet that comes with it. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised, not just by it’s delicious, spicy, unique “Buldalk Bokkeummyeon” taste, but also by how much fun it was to eat (really crunchy, but not too difficult to chew). This shit was really addictive. I split a bag with Gumiho (Malicious Intent’s official Korean-English translator), but I think I ended up eating most of it. This shit is really fucking good! Highly recommended if you’re a fan of the original Buldalk Bokkeummyeon but want to have it as a snack on the go!!
#2. Bulnak Bokkeumyeon (불낙볶음면)
Unfortunately, it looks like this actually isn’t sold in stores here anymore. I used to see it all the time at every convenience store and supermarket, but now it’s nowhere to be found. It looks like this was probably Paldo’s attempt to piggyback off the success of Samyang’s Buldalk Bokkeumyeon (see what Paldo did there? Very clever…). In Korean, for “buldalk” you actually don’t pronounce the “l” in “dalk”, so it sounds very similar to the English word “dock”. So what Paldo did was change out “dalk” (“chicken”) with “nak” (short for “nakji” (낙지), or “baby squid”), and boom! You’ve got a similar-sounding, rival product (in English it would translate literally to “Fire Baby Octopus Stir-fried Noodles”). I actually thought it was just a variant on Buldalk Bokkeumyeon forever until I started doing some research for this post, and didn’t realize that it was a rip-off! Oh well. Maybe it will come back one day?
#1. Super Junior Habanero Ramyun (슈퍼주니어 하바네로 라면)
Honestly, I’m pretty shocked that Ramen Rater picked THIS as the spiciest ramen of 2016. It really wasn’t that bad! It just kind of tasted like a spicier version of Shin Ramyeun. It was pretty tasty, but I wouldn’t say it melted my intestines or anything like that. Also, I couldn’t really tell much of a difference between it and the Habanero Jjambbong (#8, above), but maybe at this point my tastebuds had been all but annihilated and just couldn’t taste shit anymore. Also, same as #8, I think it’s silly that Super Junior was the group that got matched with what is supposed to be the spiciest packaged ramen on Earth (as of 2016), but whatever. Anyway, I’m pretty sick of talking about ramen, so I’ll just end by saying that there’s a reason why this isn’t that popular here in Korea. When the market is flooded with pretenders, as Adam “Hammerlord” Mitchell would say, “THERE’S NO ROOM FOR MEDIOCRITY.”
WULF AT THE MOVIES
For the movie section of this episode of BMB, we’re going to look at a couple movies that involve demons/Hell/etc., subjects are that surprisingly absent in most Korean horror movies. I don’t know why, but horror movies aren’t really big here, and when they do make a horror movie, it usually involves a ghost or a crazy killer on the loose or something. So, this being Episode 666, why not explore the more demonic-themed horror movies that South Korea has to offer?
The Priests (검은 사제들)
Not bad! While not explicitly Satanic, per se, The Priests (2015) does indeed involve the Catholic Church, Rosicrucianism, exorcisms, shamanistic rituals, the Korean zodiac, and other neat stuff that combines East and West. While the story is kind of predictable, what makes this movie memorable is the intense acting by Park Do-sam as the girl possessed by a powerful demonic entity (as well as her psychotic voice-overs! By far my favorite part of the movie). Also, while the “buddy priest” duo consisting of the older, hardened priest (Kim Yoon-seok, always a badass) and the pretty-boy slacker with a haunted past (Kang Dong-won) is somewhat of a cliché, it still definitely works well considering the performances of the actors. Comparisons have, of course, inevitably been drawn to The Exorcist (1973), as it’s just as much about exorcising one’s own personal demons as it is about exorcising them from others, but this movie clearly still stands on its own.
While it isn’t an amazing film, as it’s too clichéd, predictable, and simplistic in terms of story, I still found it to be quite entertaining! If you’re looking for an exorcism movie with an East Asian twist, then do yourself a favor and check it out if this sounds like something you’d be into!
The Wailing (곡성)
Hooooooooly shit, now THIS is a fucking movie!! Brought to you by acclaimed director Na Hong-jin (The Chaser, The Yellow Sea), The Wailing (2016) is one of those movies that really sticks with you and challenges you to try and figure out what exactly the fuck it was that you just watched. However, it’s important to note that you’re never confused because the movie itself doesn’t make sense, but rather it’s just more of an intricate mystery that seems to be quite open to interpretation. Is it simply a puzzling thriller? An allegory about Korean history, culture, and religion? Does it really count as a “zombie movie”?? All this and more is up for you to contemplate after watching this film. The movie is seriously almost 3 hours long, but because of the intensity and suspense it honestly goes by pretty fast.
I’d also like to briefly mention that the acting is on fucking point. Everyone from the main character, to the cute little girl, to the weird Japanese dude in the woods are all perfectly cast, and give top-notch performances. I won’t be surprised if some of these actors are nominated for various international film awards.
Last, something else that really made this movie fascinating for me were the occult dimensions they added to both the story and set detail that really added to its mystique. The plot of The Wailing, like The Priests, is heavily involved with not just Korean (and possibly Japanese) shamanism involving white/black magic, but also Catholicism, Buddhism, the occult, and even perhaps some form of demon/devil worship, among others. Because there’s so much going on in this movie underneath its surface (and also because I don’t want to spoil anything), I think it’s best that you watch it for yourself in order to try and determine what this movie is really all about.
Just a heads up though, it’s pretty fucking violent, and the filmmakers kind of went all out in terms of brutality and gore. Seriously, it never lets up, and can be pretty depressing at times. If you’re squeamish about that kind of thing, this isn’t the movie for you. That being said, it would be a mistake to consider this movie “gore porn” or whatever just based on this aspect, as it’s clearly a very intelligent, complex film.
No bullshit, this is probably the best Korean movie I’ve ever seen in my life!!