First it was the girls, now it’s the beer that’s up for debate. South Koreans have strongly supported the findings of a recent Economist article criticizing the quality of South Korean beer and comparing it unfavorably with North Korean beer. Netizens called it an embarrassment that a country with 50 million people still can’t manage to make beer that tastes better than “bubbly piss.”
The Economist complimented North Korea’s Daedong River Beer in comparison to OB and Hite in South Korea. Daedong has long received high level praise within its own country, Kim Jong Il himself visited the brewery. Daedong also produced what might be the world’s greatest beer advertisement.
Although OB’s Cass and Hite-Jinro’s Hite beer can be found in every bar and fried chicken restaurant in the country, soju is still the iconic South Korean alcoholic beverage. Love for the little green bottles has made soju the most consumed spirit in the world.
From The Korea Economic Daily:
The Economist: “North Korea’s Daedong River Beer tastes much better than South Korean Beer”
In its latest edition, the British economic weekly, The Economist, asked: “South Korean diners would not tolerate bland kimchi, so why do they swill boring beer?”
The magazine’s answer to its question is the existence of a beer manufacturing duopoly in the country. The dominance of OB Beer and Hite-Jinro has made it difficult for smaller brewers to enter the market, thereby reducing the variety of beer available.
The Economist reporter visited a number of Seoul supermarkets in person. Of the five locations he visited, all offered OB and Hite beer for the same price of 1850 won per 330ml bottle. The article explained, “It seems like there is almost no difference between OB’s Cass and Hite beer…the two companies occupy nearly 100% of the beer market in South Korea.”
A market without competition results in little variety among brands. The Economist asserted that companies which have a commanding share of the market feel no need to produce high quality beer, saying “some South Korean beers skimp on barley malt, using the likes of rice in its place. Others are full of corn.” It added that, “North Korea’s Daedong River Beer, made using equipment imported from Great Britain, tastes much better than South Korean beer.” The reporter states that South Korea’s major brewers use cheaper grains in the brewing process in order to reduce production costs. Using other grains during brewing can easily reduce the flavor of the end product.
The Economist blames excessive regulation for having created a restricted market. Up until last year, wholesale brewers in South Korea had to be able to produce at least 1 million litres. The requirement in effect prohibited smaller breweries from entering the market. According to the report, “while this year’s revision of the law to a lower standard of 120,000L relieved some of the pressure, there are still significant obstacles for small-scale breweries.”
The article also brought up the issue of tariffs. Since South Korea regards malt and yeast as brewing ingredients, the import tariffs are low. However, the oats and other grains that are necessary to impart distinct flavor to beer are subjected to 500% protectionist tariffs. The Economist points out that, “punitive tariffs prevent brewing experimentation.”
Comments from The Korea Economic Daily:
The reality is that domestic beer is much less tasty than imported beer. We also want to drink good beer…:(
I’ve never tried Daedong River Beer but of course it would be better than South Korean beer! Nowhere in the world have I been able to find beer that tastes worse than South Korean beer.
I also heard about this. North Korea bought a whole brewing operation overseas and brought it over. They are also supposed to use high quality ingredients. I wish I could taste it…
That’s the reason why the beer closets are doing well, we all know it.
As a beer lover I have to agree with this. South Korean beer can’t compare with German, American, Japanese, Chinese Tsingtao, Mexico, Philippine San Miguel, or even Daedong River Beer. I heard that Daedong River Beer is made in the German style, so that it is almost like Beck’s. There is plenty of rice added as well, which makes the flavor interesting. When I tasted it, it was a bit sweet and smooth, and better even than our domestic Cafri or Hite. OB Golden Lager was good when they first introduced it but now it has changed
We know it tastes bad, that’s why we mix it with soju
Seriously, ever since I had imported beer at Homeplus I haven’t been able to swallow domestic beer
Anyone who knows about beer knows that South Korean brewers water down their beer before they sell it. North Korean or Thai beer really is better than our domestic stuff
I agree 200%. Just try Japanese, Chinese, or German beer and you will know the difference. Fermentation for South Korean beer is a joke, it’s all just mixed with synthetically produced alcohol.
I’m living in Australia, there is a lot of variety in the beer sold here and the taste is great. Word has gotten out around the world that South Korean beer is really bland and tastes worse than piss. This is all thanks to the brewing monopoly. What kind of joke is it that we have 50 million people living in our country and just two beer companies. Philippine San Miguel tastes a lot better
This is an article from the British Economist magazine. You should read the article before commenting. Claiming that this is some commie reporter’s opinion is bs. Everything the article says is true, sadly
Come all the way from Britain to make claims about our beer market.. some nerve
I am a Korean who immigrated overseas. South Korean electronics are the best in the world. The food is fantastic. Korean girls are beautiful and the men are handsome and have great fashion. Korean soju tastes bad and South Korean beer is rubbish.
without the bubbles it would just be piss
British liquor is pretty good but their food tastes worse than dog turds
I didn’t know there was enough grain in North Korea to even brew beer. It must be going to the the Kaesong Industrial Complex, those beggar thugs…
South Korean beer really does taste like rubbish. They only started putting in a lot of barley recently. I hate China but Tsingtao is still better than South Korean beer.
Take one look at people drinking soju and you will have your answer about South Korea’s tasteless beer. People don’t drink alcohol for the taste, they drink to get drunk. Imported hard liquor mixes well with beer
I’ve tried beer from all over the world. Daedong River Beer isn’t bad but South Korean beer would rate among the very lowest. In a market as large as South Korea we still don’t have beer better than North Korea’s. Consumers need to wake up to this problem.