May 29, 2006 21:27
Koreans consume less alcohol. Sales of beer between January and April were 7.27 percent lower than in the same period last year.
The whisky market, which has been shrinking since 2002, is showing no signs of an upswing either. Even the traditional Korean distilled liquor soju, which usually grows in popularity during pinched times and is known as the common man’s tipple, saw barely a rise in consumption. The exception is wine. Due partly to its widely reported antioxidant properties, it has seen consumption skyrocket amid an ongoing "well-being" trend.
Among reasons for the decline are the prolonged recession and Korea’s gradual introduction of the five-day working week. As a result, drinkers in lower income brackets have had to cut down consumption, while the introduction of the five-day working week reduced the amount of after-work drinking salarymen have to do.
But the decline in consumption is evident across the board in every kind of liquor and regardless of the alcohol content. Sales of whisky, mostly drunk in entertainment places, started to fall in 2003 and have dropped some 10 percent annually.
Beer sales have been sluggish for the last four years. The nation's beer market dwindled 3.66 percent in 2003, recovering 1.96 percent in 2004 but declining another 4.26 percent last year. Breweries are pinning their hopes on the World Cup in June to improve their sales.
If the smaller wine market has done better, posting annual growth of between 20 and 40 percent over the last four or five years, it is because it is drunk mostly at home and has therefore benefited from longer weekends.
"Increasing wine consumption is helping to establish a healthier drinking culture, too, because the spreading appreciation of wine means more and more people drink not to get drunk but to enjoy themselves," says Lee Cheol-hyung, CEO of local wine retailer Winenara.
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