S. Korea sets record with 30,586 tons of whisky imports in 2023

By Park Sae-jin Posted : January 16, 2024, 13:43 Updated : January 16, 2024, 13:43

SEOUL -- Customs data reveals that South Korea has set a new record for whisky imports in 2023, thanks to a growing number of foreign liquor enthusiasts. A total of 30,586 tons of whisky were imported, marking a significant 13.1 percent increase compared to the previous year. This record-breaking change in consumption trend comes in a country where traditional spirits such as "Soju" and beer have long been the preferred choices among drinkers.

According to Eatup Trend, a leading domestic food and drink market analysis firm, the predominant trend in South Korea's alcoholic beverage market in 2023 was "Digging Consumption" -- a trendy spending culture where consumers delve deeper into specific fields they are interested in. Currently, whisky is the hottest item in the beverage market, often inducing scenes such as "open runs" where customers join a desperate race to grab their favorite whisky as soon as a megastore opens its doors in the morning.

The market research firm analyzed that customer demand continues to rise while the supply is limited, causing a consistent price increase. Because whisky is more expensive than other alcoholic beverages such as Soju and beer, young consumers enjoy foreign liquor through "high ball" cocktails, Japanese-style cocktails made by mixing whisky, soda, and other ingredients such as lime juice and ice. The term "Mixology," meaning to create something new by mixing ingredients, was also a popular keyword in South Korea's alcoholic beverage scene.

Data released by South Korea's national customs service showed on January 16 that a total of 30,586 tons of whisky was imported in 2023, up 13.1 percent from 27,038 tons in 2022. The amount of imported whisky in 2021 was in the 10,000-ton range but the popularity of the foreign liquor exploded in 2022 thanks to people enjoying expensive drinks at home rather than visiting crowded bars due to COVID-19.

However, the total price of imported whisky in 2023 was $259.5 million, down 2.7 percent from a year ago. It was because consumers sought cost-effective whisky instead of expensive and luxurious products. Meanwhile, the popularity of wine, which was once ranked among South Korea's favorite drinks, decreased. A total of 56,542 tons were imported in 2023, which was similar to the amount of wine imported in 2020.
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