By Kim Jae-won
Exports of makgeolli, a traditional Korean rice wine, to Japan tripled last year thanks to expanding sales networks and celebrity marketing, the tax agency and makers of the drink said Monday.
Korea exported 15,686 kiloliters of the milk-colored wine to the neighboring country in 2010 jumping 201.4 percent from a year ago, according to a report released by the National Tax Service (NTS). Makgeolli sales in Japan made up 81 percent of total overseas shipments, the report showed.
“Our products are available all over the country as we widened networks in cooperation with Japanese liquor maker Suntory,” said Lee Chang-yong, a spokesman of Seoul Jangsu Makgeolli.
Suntory Group is one of the biggest liquor and beverage companies in Japan, and sells alcoholic drinks like makgeolli, beer and spirits as well as mineral water and orange juice.
Lee said that Korean actor and singer Jang Keun-suk, who featured in the company’s commercial, also contributed to the increased sales on the back of his popularity in Japan.
In terms of value, sales of the makgeolli exports reached $15.6 million last year surpassing imports of Japanese sake, which posted $13.7 million during the same period. This is the first time in five years that makgeolli exports beat imports of sake.
In terms of whole overseas shipments, Korea exported a total of 19,407 kiloliters of makgeolli last year, up from 6,978 kiloliters a year earlier. Other than Japan, the U.S. imported 1,698 kiloliters of the Korean wine in 2010, while China imported 844 kiloliters.
Exports of soju, a distilled beverage made from rice, also grew 2.9 percent year-on-year to 81,543 kiloliters last year, according to the report. Japan made up 81 percent of the nation’s total overseas sales of soju, followed by the U.S. and China with 8.7 percent and 4.3 percent, respectively.
Beer exports jumped 15.9 percent to 65,944 kiloliters in 2010, with Hong Kong and Mongolia making up 47.3 percent and 16.3 percent, respectively.
Korea’s imports of alcoholic beverages grew 8.5 percent last year to 112,000 kiloliters. Beer imports expanded 14.5 percent, while whiskey and wine imports rose 6.3 percent and 8.8 percent.