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Asia Minute: North Korean Beer?


Most headlines from the Korean peninsula these days are focused on the Olympics, tensions with North Korea, or a combination of both. But while the Olympics get underway tomorrow in South Korea, there’s a new product from North Korea that will not be part of the celebrations. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

When you think of North Korea, missile tests or leader Kim Jong Un may come to mind. Maybe even the distinctive tones of that state broadcaster in traditional dress. But you probably don’t think about beer.

Even so, there is news about beer from North Korea this week.

As with any news from North Korea, it doesn’t come in a straight line.

The BBC’s monitoring service says North Korea’s state newspaper is running a story that the country has introduced a new beer. It’s a wheat beer, the end product of what the paper calls a “round-the-clock battle” to make life “more enjoyable for the people.”

Credit Uri Tours / Wikipedia
Craft beers at Taedonggang Brewery in North Korea

Or at least the people who can afford to buy beer.

It’s a popular beverage on the Korean peninsula. The Belgian Embassy published an analysis of the South Korean beer market last fall—saying most consumers prefer German-style lager beer.

Last year, the German newspaper Bild reported Kim Jong Un asked Paulaner Brewery to open a local beer garden. But the German brewer declined.

That new North Korean beer will be made under the label of state brewer Taedonggang—named after a river that flows through the North Korean capital. The brewer produces several other beers, marketed, according to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency, as “The Pride of Pyongyang.”

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