Dispirited supporters tend to drink soju
By Kim Tae-gyu
Kim Min-seung, a 35-year-old office worker in Daegu, visited a ballpark in the city late last month with his friends to watch the Samsung Lions in a Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) game.
When a hard-throwing closer for the hosts, who had not suffered a loss for the past two years, took the mound to seal the win in the top of the ninth inning, Kim mulled over going for a few beers after the match at a nearby pub.
However, the usually reliable pitcher was roughed up in an unprecedented manner, surrendering six runs that meant the Lions lost. Then, Kim changed his plan and decided to drink soju, a local spirit.
``We thought of toasting the victory of our team with beer. As soon as our side experienced a devastating come-from-behind defeat, we opted for soju,’’ Kim said.
``Beer is not strong enough to drown our downbeat mood in a short period of time. Soju is a perfect fit for such a situation where we need to get our mind off the bad game.’’
Kim and his friends are not the only ones who have migrated to hard liquor as shown by data from Family Mart, the country’s top convenience store chain run by Bokwang Group.
The group said that its outlets adjacent to the stadium in Daegu saw people buy beer and soju at a ratio of 60 percent to 40 percent earlier in the evening.
Yet, the proportion was reversed to 30 percent against 70 percent after the game as many fans seemingly purchased soju after their team was beaten, according to Bokwang.
The Seoul-based group said that the pattern of alcohol consumption is similar in other cities with ballparks.
``Over the baseball season, alcoholic beverages are very popular at our stores close to stadiums. A match typically boosts sales of beer and soju by 28 percent and 20 percent respectively,’’ a Bokwang official said.
``Sales of beer rocket by 47 percent on average when the home team wins while those of soju jump 62 percent when they lose. Beer is the standard drink in a victorious atmosphere while soju takes center stage in the reverse situation.’’
The group said that baseball has become a national pastime without regard to gender as a growing number of female fans are watching the sport across the country
``In the past, about 60 percent of purchasers of baseball caps and other sports gear were males. But this year, the ratio is almost 50:50 as more females grow to love baseball,’’ the official said.
Currently, a total of eight baseball clubs compete in the KBO’s top league with one more poised to join next year. The number of female spectators has risen rapidly of late.
As baseball’s popularity continues to grow among both genders, the KBO is considering increasing the number of top-flight clubs to 10 in the not-so-distant future although some existing teams are against the idea.