The Korea Herald


Chinese beer imports plunge amid Tsingtao scandal

By Shim Woo-hyun

Published : Nov. 16, 2023 - 16:54

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Tsingtao beer products are shown at a local discount store in Seoul. (Yonhap) Tsingtao beer products are shown at a local discount store in Seoul. (Yonhap)

South Korea’s beer imports from China decreased by over 40 percent last month after a hygiene incident at a Tsingtao brewery was revealed. Imports of Japanese beer products, on the other hand, increased by over 300 percent.

According to data from the Korea Customs Service on Thursday, Korea’s imports of Chinese beer reached 228.1 tons in October, down 42.6 percent on-year. The import value of Chinese beer products shipped to Korea during the same period came to $1.9 million, also down 37.7 percent.

“The drop seems to be mainly due to the video clip that showed a Tsingtao worker urinating into a tank,” an official from a local alcoholic beverage company said. “I would not be surprised if imports of Chinese beer dropped further in the future,” the official added.

In October, a video was posted on Chinese social media platforms that showed a man wearing a blue uniform climbing over the side of a high-walled tank and urinating within the tank, which was believed to contain raw ingredients for brewing beer at Tsingtao Brewery No. 3 in Qingdao, Shandong.

The video immediately went viral and Tsingtao beer faced a backlash from Korean consumers for unsanitary practices.

BK, the Korean company that imports Tsingtao beer to South Korea, then tried to allay fears among Korean consumers, by saying that the Tsingtao beer products imported to Korea were not produced at Tsingtao Brewery No. 3.

However, consumers’ fears regarding the overall hygiene conditions at Tsingtao’s plants caused them to stop consuming them.

“I stopped buying Tsingtao beer at convenience stores and ordering them at restaurants after acknowledging the issue,” said Lee, a 36-year-old man living in Gyeonggi Province. “In any case, I am no longer bothered since there are many other beer products,” he added.

As sales of Tsingtao beer continue to drop here, BK is currently offering voluntary retirement programs to all its employees.

While imports of Chinese beer have fallen significantly, imports of Japanese beer have soared.

According to the Korea Customs Service, imports of Japanese beer in October reached 7,243 tons, up 303 percent on-year. The value of the imports came to $6.1 million, increasing 377.4 percent on-year.

Backed by increased imports of Japanese beer, South Korea’s total imports of international beer products came to 18,753 tons, up 9.4 percent on-year. Their combined value too rose 23.6 percent to $17.3 million.