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Makgeolli exports to surpass $50m mark

This year’s exports of makgeolli, a traditional Korean rice wine, are set to surpass $50 million for the first time on a sharp rise in demand from Japan and China.

According to the Korea Customs Service, 37,027 tons of makgeolli worth $45.29 million were exported in the 10 months to October, about triple the amount sold abroad in the same period last year. Korea saw $15 million in makgeolli exports (15,543 tons) in January-October 2010. The country’s exports of the rice wine in 2010 amounted to $19 million.

“Demand for makgeolli rose steeply in Japan and China as it is widely through of as a healthy alcoholic drink,” a KCS official said.

“If this upward trend continues, exports of makgeolli will top $50 million this year and reach $100 million next year.”

Exports of soju, Korea’s top alcohol export, dropped slightly while overseas sales of Korean beer jumped.

Soju exports dipped from $95.64 million to $91.9 million. Beer exports surged 43 percent year-on-year to $57.74 million in the January-October period.

Thanks to the robust exports of makgeolli, Korea’s total exports of alcoholic drinks gained 30 percent from a year ago to $205 million.

Imports, meanwhile, climbed 7 percent to $346 million.

Beer, soju and wine imports surged 34 percent, 23 percent and 18 percent, respectively, while imports of whiskey fell 4 percent.

Whiskey still took up the greatest share among imported alcoholic beverages with $181.14 million, followed by wine ($104.5 million), beer ($48.17 million) and clear strained rice wine ($11.82 million).

By Kim So-hyun (