This Yonhap file photo shows a customer picking a wine. (Yonhap)
South Korea's wine imports soared over 70 percent in 2021 as more people enjoyed drinking at home and alone amid the coronavirus pandemic, data showed Wednesday.
Asia's fourth-largest economy imported $506.2 million worth of wine in the January-November period of last year, up 76 percent from a year earlier, according to the data by the Korea Customs Service and industry sources.
It marks the first time that the country's wine imports have surpassed the $500 million level.
South Korea's wine imports had been on a steady rise. They came to $244 million in 2018 before rising to $259.3 million in 2019 and $332 million in 2020.
Industry sources said wine imports soared as people preferred drinking by themselves at home instead of going to bars amid the coronavirus pandemic.
France was the largest exporter of wine to South Korea with $162.6 million, followed by the United States with $81.6 million, Chile with $68.6 million and Spain with $37.9 million.
The data also showed South Korea's whisky imports hitting a five year high of $154.3 million in the 11-month period, up 37.4 percent from a year earlier and marking the first on-year rise in three years, amid the liquor's popularity among young drinkers.
In contrast, beer imports shrank 1.7 percent on-year to $204.5 million during the period, marking the third consecutive year of decline.
The drop was attributed mainly to sluggish imports of Japanese brands on a boycott of goods from the neighboring country due to Tokyo's curbs on exports of key materials to Seoul.
Imports of Japanese beer came to $6.02 million in the January-November period, slightly up from $5.67 million in 2020 but down from $39.76 million in 2019 and $78.30 million in 2018.
Also responsible was the growing popularity of homegrown craft beer among local drinkers, according to the sources. (Yonhap)