Korea’s binge drinking culture changes toward tasting

2013-03-11 17:45

Binge drinking culture changes toward tasting

By Cho Mu-hyun

Following increased awareness among the public about the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle, Korea’s infamous binge drinking is slowly but steadily changing toward consuming less alcohol while savoring flavor more.

Many Koreans, especially younger consumers, prefer brand name drinks such as Glenfiddich, Remy Martin or Matarromera, while ignoring soju, Korea’s rice distilled liquor.

Firms are advertising their products in a different way due to the rise of amateur connoisseurs with increasingly diverse tastes. Makers of beer are now responding to this demand.

The Oriental Brewery (OB), known for brands Cass and OB Lager, is pushing its Golden Lager brand with two words in mind _ young and tasty.The brewery recently invited Rob Shellman, a professional beer server certified by the U.S.-based Cicero Certification Program that runs a beer academy at Minnesota, to promote the best way to drink OB Golden Lager.

He said “there are over a hundred different beers across the world made with different ingredients and brewing techniques,” and said each has its own way to be fully enjoyed. Shellman also said some of factors that most effect the taste of beer are pouring, glass maintenance, temperature and the amount of foam.

He also said that in Korea, beer seems to be regarded as merely an ingredient to make “poktanju,” literally a bomb drink made by mixing beer with stronger liquor such as soju and whiskey.

“I was flabbergasted when I had to first drink poktanju at an after-work dinner meeting,” said a 28-year-old office worker Lee. “Since college, I had a penchant for enjoying beer and it really bothered me that it wasn’t getting the proper respect that I think it deserves.”

There has been a general attitude of non-appreciation toward beer here, with some going as far as to describing it as “barley tea with alcohol.” “I’m personally glad that all these companies are setting the mood for us to fully enjoy drinking and making it a cultural activity rather than a forced way of relieving stress that punishes our health,” said Lee.

On the homepage of Lotte, Hite-Jinro and OB, there are now active community sites where people share their experiences of drinking and make suggestions on when and where to enjoy certain products.

“I usually drink Western beers at a bar and post my comparison with Korean beers at community sites and suggest improvements on taste,” said Jun Song, 26, a translator. “I think most of my friends prefer beer or if we have to drink soju, we don’t make poktanju. To me what brand you choose can also be a personal statement.”

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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