Asia Minute: Korean Beer Flowing Overseas

Nov 3, 2015

Credit ayustety / Flickr

The Asia Pacific is the world’s largest region for beer consumption.  That’s according to Japan’s Kirin Brewery.  And while Japanese beers are famous in much of the world, another Asian country is pushing ahead with exports. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

A couple of months ago, South Korea’s exports saw their sharpest fall in six years - tumbling by nearly 15% from a year earlier.

But it’s an entirely different story when it comes to beer.  Over the first nine months of this year, Korea’s beer exports are up nearly 15%.   The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs says Korea now sends beer to fifty countries.  The top three markets are Hong Kong, China and Iraq.

The Korea Times reports some young people in China prefer Korean beer because it has a lower alcohol content than Chinese beer.  And the Iraqi market?  The Chosun Ilbo quotes a ministry official as saying “devout Muslims don’t drink alcohol, but people in Kurdistan in northern Iraq enjoy a light drink—which is why they prefer lighter beer.

As for domestic sales, Korea has seen an influx of craft beers in recent years.  The market is still dominated by two giant local brewers: Hite-Jinro and Oriental Brewers.  But the rapid development of the craft beer market in Korea has drawn attention - including  from the BBC, Canada’s CBC and the San Diego Reader—which has asked whether this trend is a consumer shift - or just a beer bubble.