Korean Soju is World’s Most Popular Spirit

Lee Hyori drinks soju, so should you.

A brand of soju, South Korea’s tipple of choice, has topped a worldwide ranking of most-sold spirits, beating vodka, whisky and brandy to remain the most-drunk spirit in the world.

Not only was soju number one, it was also number three. Jinro‘s Chamisul maintained its position in the top spot with Lotte’s Chum-churum coming a close third, losing out on second place to some pesky vodka.

From Chosun:

[Top 20 Global Spirits:] Korean Soju ranks an embarrassing first place

The two largest Korean soju brands took the first and third places in the world spirits rank.

Soju ranks first and third place in the global spirits sales rankings of 180 brands. The amount of soju sold is 5 times that of Johnnie Walker [Whiskey].

The two top Korean soju brands Chamisul and Chum-Churum took first and third place respectively in the rank of spirits sold around the world. Chamisul has topped the list ever since 2001 and Chum-Churum has been in the third place ever since 2007. Since soju is mostly sold in Korea, it’s surprising that it’s beaten vodka, whisky and rum which are sold around the world, to top the rankings for the 12th year so far.

Alcohol-specialist magazine Drinks International with international survey specialist Euromonitor International produced the sales ranking of 180 international spirits brands from last year’s sales. At the top of the list (known as the Millionaires Club) was Jinro soju, 61,380,000 boxes (9L per case) sold, which is far ahead and nearly 2.5 times that of American [sic] vodka brand Smirnoff, 24,700,000 cases. Chum-Churum from Lotte Liquor was ranked in the third place with 23,900,000 cases sold, at a small difference to Smirnoff.

Adding the sales volumes of Jinro and Lotte Liquor together gives 85,280,000 cases, which is 5 times that of Johnnie Walker (18,000,000 cases), a familiar whisky brand. This was beyond compare to the sales of other spirits well-known in Korea, such as the Swedish vodka Absolut (16th place with 11,210,000 cases) and American Whiskey Jack Daniels (19th place with 10,580,000 cases). Sales of Ballantine’s, a famous whiskey brand, only amounted to 7.5% of total soju sales, with 6,470,000 thousand boxes.

Hamish Smith, a Drinks International journlaist, said in an interview with the Daily Mail of the UK that ‘Jinro soju at the top of the list has scored more than double that of the second place brand, which makes it impossible for most spirit brands to catch up with it.’ Out of the total manufactured volume, 94% or more of Jinro soju and more than 96% of Chum-churum are sold to a domestic market, labelling the brands typically ‘local.’ Five brands of soju were in the top 20 ranks in last year’s survey (based on 2010 sales records), which included Cham soju from Kumbokju (11th), White from Muhak (14th) and C1 soju from Daesun Distilling Co. Local Korean spirit brands are ranked within the top 20, thanks to the Korean culture of heavy drinking.

According to the WHO survey of amounts of alcohol consumed in its 188 member countries in 2005, Korea ranked 13th in the world. However, Korea topped the rank of the amount of alcohol consumed in spirits such as soju and whisky, with 9.57 litres. This means that the amount of hard liquor consumed by Koreans, not wine or beer that is often consumed during meals, is the highest in the world.

Comments from Nate:


Absolutely hate it, the Korean culture of drinking alcohol till you’re wasted.


So what’s funny here is that….Korean soju is a local spirit, with 90% or more of it sold in Korea, but its sales are in the 1st place internationally? Which means that Korean people literally ‘poured it down th throat’ ke ke The reporter chose such an apt title. An embarrassing 1st place…. ke ke


How should I deal with a boss who forces me to drink? It’s driving me crazy.


Nothing bothers me really, but I wish the culture of forcing someone who can’t drink alcohol to drink would just end. Since drinking is a personal preference, I hope we can establish a culture that allows people to drink if and when they please…


People in our country compete to see who can drink more. On college trips and in workshops all you do is drink loads. They don’t know what to do except for drinking.


Although it is right to change the force-feeding and heavy-drinking culture, the difference in amounts drunk is cultural, so I don’t see how it is really ’embarrassing’;; It doesn’t seem appropriate that the journalist placed his own bias on it in the title already.


To start with, soju is a diluted spirit made by diluting alcohol in water.. What’s funny is..it can’t be compared to spirits like whisky, as soju contains artificial sweetners like stevioside, which is prohibited in other countires… It’s embarrassing that this kind of spirit tops the world rank… Stevioside is known to produce carcinogens when combined with alcohol…

Comments from EDaily:


It’s surely a good thing [to rank so high], but the inconvenient truth is that most of it was probably sold within Korea…


In Haeundae, foreigners walk around drinking Saengtak [a brand of Makkoli sold in Busan] like they would drink beer. Culture shock.


80% of all spirits in the world are drunk by Korean people ke ke ke ke ke ke ke ke


Anyway, I contributed to topping the world rankings! Uhm………. yeah ke ke ke ke ke ke ke ke ke ke ke ke


Should I laugh or cry at this?

And now for some random soju commercials, because why not!

Sexy Soju Advert

Leggy Soju Advert

Sexy Soju Advert

Sexy Soju Advert

Lee Hyori drinks soju, so should you.

Drinking soju in Korean dramas...

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