Makgeolli's success re-awakens world of Korean traditional liquor
Oct 13, 2009
The popularity of makgeolli, Korean traditional rice liquor, is simply astounding in Japan. One makgeolli bar in Shinjuku, Tokyo, where you can enjoy some 30 types of makgeolli, is packed every day with Japanese women in their 20s and 30s. There are even big department stores in Japan that sell makgeolli in fancy glass bottles, instead of crude plastic bottles like in Korea.
The unexpected boom in Japan has naturally led Korea, the birthplace of makgeolli, to take an interest in the potential of other traditional liquors at home. Last summer the Presidential Council on National Competitiveness held a discussion on strengthening the competitiveness of Korean traditional liquor at its 16th session held in Cheong Wa Dae on August 26.
“In Korea, liquor has always been a thing to regulate in the past, but if we develop our liquor as part of a major industry at home, we will have traditional drinks that represent Korea and can be enjoyed by people all over the world,” the Presidential Council said. “We shall grow our liquor exports to US$1 billion by 2017, which is five times that of current exports.”
The Presidential Council then went on to list several pre-conditions for reaching this goal, namely developing representative brand names for local liquors, upgrading the overall quality of the drink, restoring the recipes of traditional liquors and partnering with the agricultural sector for joint development.
First, in order to globalize the traditional liquors, the Presidential Council decided to hold liquor exhibitions to select three brand names according to type. Budgets will be allocated for exhibitions, establishing new markets, promotion, logistics and marketing. This would also be linked with the ongoing Hansik (Korean cuisine) globalization project so that traditional liquor could secure its place next to Korean cuisine in places like Korean food experience centers and other sampling parties. The Presidential Council decided to support the joint advancement of Korean restaurants and Korean bars overseas.
To upgrade the quality of local liquor, a labeling system will be introduced to mark both the ingredients of the liquor and the place of origin of those ingredients. Quality certification marks and geographical certification marks will also be extended to cover makgeolli and other liquors. The plan is to restore 50 types of traditional liquor that disappeared during the Japanese annexation of Korea (1910-1945) by 2012.
To further popularize traditional liquor and develop local regions, the drinks will be promoted side by side with local specialties. To demonstrate how traditional liquor is made, a tourism course will be developed that extends from the farm, through a distillation site to sampling rooms. This would add impetus to the local liquor industry and liquor festival. The traditional liquor industry will be made to boost the local agricultural industry and local economy overall.
Meanwhile the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the Ministry of Strategy and Finance, National Tax Service and other related ministries have decided to come together to form a permanent cooperative system related to this. A Korea liquor research center will be established, followed by laws to promote the Korean liquor industry by early next year. The idea is to enable Korea to come up with a new kind of liquor that will follow in the footsteps of French Cognac, German beer and Japanese sake.
*Adapted from Weekly Gonggam Magazine
By Kim Hee-sung
Korea.net Staff Writer
Department Global Communication and Contents Division