North Korean Beer Better Than South Korean Beer, Netizens Agree

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:

North Korean advertisement for Daedong River Beer


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


All the more reason to swiftly unify with North Korea. Let’s meet some North Korean girls and have a North Korean beer. When will that bastard pig finally loses power…


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.

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  • Kate

    S.K beer is pretty bad and limited…. and soju gives me headaches. I could tolerate Cass but American beer is literally 1000000000000000000000000000x better.

    • And that’s really saying something, given the watery piss-like richness of American beer.

  • Yu Bum Suk

    I don’t like OB at all but I’ve never minded a really cold Hite. It reminds me of Kokanee, British Columbia’s main cheap beer. I once gave a can of Kokanee to a Korean. He took one sip and then remarked ‘It tastes like Hite’,

  • Yu Bum Suk

    BTW, is Cass made by one of the two? It seems to me that it’s more common than OB around where I live.

    • Sillian

      Cass is also from OB.Beer.

  • holdingrabbits

    It’s protectionist laws like the brewing laws that actually hurt the country’s economy and slows development and expansion. I saw Cass once in America at a Korean grocery store, but it’s not in the liquor stores I visited. If Korea would just relax the laws and allow for competition, then maybe someone would make something they could be proud of and that other countries would want to import. Also, imagine how many jobs would be created if microbrews were actually allowed to exist.

    But to the real question…..Of the big ones, Hite tastes the best to me. It seems a little more crisp and slightly more bitter…but who knows? Give me a blind taste test and they’d all be the same probably.

  • Digitalsoju

    If Chucky comes in here to defend awful Korean beer, I give up.

    • mr.wiener

      He’s probably a soju fan.
      You get the beer you deserve though. If you let someone get the manopoly and squeeze out the little guys you have no-one but yourself to blame for the soapy ,bland mass produced suds you have to drink. Thanks to the microbrew revolution America, long associated with beers that tastes like sexual intercourse in a canoe, now has some of the best small breweries in the world.

      • Digitalsoju

        This country is full of monopolies, look at Samsung; they make EVERYTHING here. If people in the states saw Samsung fashion, they’d be puzzled as well.

      • chucky3176

        Actually no. I don’t drink alcohol, I haven’t for many years.
        I don’t even know what you guys are talking about because all beer seem to taste the same to me – bitter and nasty.

  • basicx

    I think the difference is that the Korea’s drinking/beer culture is different from other countries. Generally In Korea, people drink beer with food (anju or meals), and light beers compliment fried chicken/bbq/etc better than the richer flavored beers.

    • Kate

      I think every culture in the world that drinks alcohol drinks it with food……..not just Korea. Drinking and Food go hand n hand everywhere.

    • Just because a beer is ‘light’, doesn’t mean it has to taste of water and soggy ashtray –– there are plenty of ‘light’ beers that still have subtle and complex flavours. Taedonggang, the North Korean beer, is basically like a dark, flavoursome lager. Where people are lucky enough to drink the beer in North Korea, they’re eating it with the same food and anju and don’t seem to have any complaints. Then again, they’re dealing with a monopoly, as opposed to the duopoly in the South that the Economist article refers to. Seems Koreans on both sides of the border are having their beer choices controlled by the state ㅋ

  • Paul M

    All is not doom and gloom concerning beer in Korea. There’s a great bar in Seoul called Craftworks and they brew their own beer such as Halla Mountain Golden Ale and Geumgang Mountain Dark Ale.

    Unfortunately the law is handicapping major domestic brewers forcing them to produce as much beer as possible cheaply as possible. So of course they are going to use rice and corn to maximise their output.

  • dk2020

    I’ll try it .. I like Hite and OB though its light beer to me .. my faves are heinekens, coronas, and shocktops .. the worst liquor I tried had to be that Chinese wine from the Drunken Master movies .. really bitter and tasted like charcoal .. but at least I can say I tried it and it killed my curiosity..

    • yeh

      youre not from the ghetto. what does malt liquor in 40oz bottles have to do with anything in this article? the only malt liquor available here, in KOREA is cass red. at least you didnt mention k-town here

      • dk2020

        LOL I am from the ghetto .. I was just asking people on this board not people in Korea .. is that okay wit you? motherfuckas love trying to tell other people what to do .. assshole! ..

        • Do people ‘tweet’ from the ghetto?

          • dk2020

            yes sir, it’s called being ghetto fabulous .. buying the newest technology and clothes even if they can’t really afford it! koreans do that too ahaha, but I think it’s evident just going on twitter .. there is ghetto people with internet access ..

    • Kate

      When I use to drink alcohol in college and was a poor college student, I drank Hurricane 40’s…….

  • A Gawd Dang Mongolian

    North Korean Beer: You can still taste the sadness

    • TrickyNishidake

      That’s what makes it delicious.

      • yoon


  • Jahar

    When I lived in Korea we always made fun of the beer, but now i miss it. One of the korean posters above was right, it goes really well with fried chicken. I was a Cass drinker. I hated Hite haha

  • YouAreSilly

    Hite and Cass? More like SHITE and ASS amirite!

  • actionjksn

    I’m an American Who drinks a lot of good beer from all over the world. I had the pleasure to visit Korea for two weeks. I love South Korea and the food. And the women were the most beautiful I have ever seen, and the people in general were very nice. I went on a tour to the DMZ and tried the North Korean beer, and expected it to be nasty. I was pleasantly surprised to find out it was very good. I drank the one shown in the video, and it was much better than either Cass or Hite. They both tasted very low grade but I drank enough to get used to it. They both taste about the same but I think Cass may be a little better. If those two company’s do not improve their quality someone will end up taking their business. Especially since South Koreans are starting to learn what good beer tastes like.

    I must say I do like Soju but it gives me a hangover. I bought it here in a couple of Korean restaurants and was offended when they charged me 12 US dollars for it. Since I never payed more than 2000 won [ which was about 2 dollars] when I was in Seoul. It may have even been a little less than that.

    I also smuggled a bottle of the North Korean beer back to the US for a souvenir.

  • Digitalsoju

    OB + Hite = O-bite (오바이트)

    • Sillian

      Lol…good one.

  • bultak23

    북한은 자유을 필요없고 밥을 필요없고… 맥주 만필요있다!

    • Paul M

      Where I’m from we have what’s called a liquid lunch. Skip the food and just drink beer – it has all the nutrients we need heh heh.

  • Maja

    Just drink Belgian beer.

  • Pingback: SeoulPodcast #136: Pissed about Pissy Beer | SeoulPodcast()

  • Smith_90125

    I wouldn’t touch anything made in North Korea on principle, but anything is better than South Korean “beer”. Even mainland Chinese and Thai beers are better, and they are terrible. There’s a reason foreigners call Korean brands “BO beer” and “Shite”.

    The only drinkable beers in Korea are imports. Japanese (Asahi, Kirin), Filipino (San Miguel) and Indonesian (Tiger) are decent to good. European beers were good but cost far too much.

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