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Asia Minute: Foreign Beer Booming in South Korea


Recent news from the Korean peninsula has focused on missile launches and military exercises. But there are other developments this week—including a historic development regarding beer. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.


2017 has been a huge year for foreign beer in South Korea.

The Korea International Trade Association says that through July, beer imports are up more than 50 percent from a year earlier—approaching 150 million dollars.

And the association reports sales of foreign beer outpaced sales of any other kind of imported alcohol, including wine and whisky, the first time that’s ever happened.

The Korea Herald puts an interesting spin on this development linking increased beer drinking with a healthier lifestyle.

Here’s the logic.

The Herald quotes a liquor company official saying “as people become more health conscious, the shift away from strong drinks and toward lighter beverages like beer is likely to continue.”

Apart from health considerations, and despite diplomatic complications, the top selling imported beer in South Korea is Japanese—for the second year in a row.

Lotte Mart puts the market share of Japanese beer at more than 22-percent of all foreign beers—outpacing the Germans at 17-percent, the Belgians at 11-percent and the Chinese at 7-percent.

South Korea’s domestic beer does not have a stellar international reputation.

A piece several years ago in the Economist Magazine ventured that “brewing remains just about the only useful activity at which North Korea beats the South.”

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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