Whiskey sales drop sharply amid change in drinking culture

SEOUL-- Sales of whiskey in South Korea have declined sharply over the last decade due largely to a shift in the country's drinking culture, industry data showed Monday.

The domestic sales of the spirit hit 1.67 million boxes, or some 30 million bottles, in 2016, down 41 percent from 2.84 million boxes tallied in 2008, according to industry data.

The decline in whiskey sales came amid a change in the patterns of the country's drinking culture with people opting to have drinks alone or with families instead of going on a binge in groups after work, watchers said.

Rounds of heavy drinking at night have been common and part of South Koreans' work culture, perceived as a way of relieving stress for individuals and maintaining connections for businessmen.

Such a change is also reflected in global statistics. As of 2013, the average alcohol consumption of a South Korean aged over 15 stood at 8.9 liters per year, ranking 22nd among the 34-member Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries.

Although South Korea rebounded to 14th in 2015, the consumption level marks a considerable drop from the 1980s, when Korea was once placed eighth with 14.8 liters of alcohol consumption per person on an annual basis, the data showed.

The implementation of a new anti-graft law here is also cited as a factor that has slowed overall alcohol consumption. The law, which came into effect October last year, mainly puts a limit on exchanging gifts among public officials or those working in connection with such duties.

The growing trend to shun heavy drinking has struck a blow to the local liquor industry.

The shift in the drinking pattern among South Koreans has also helped fuel imports of foreign beers as more individuals opt to enjoy a few light drinks to their liking over a meal these days.

The inbound shipments of imported beers jumped 29 percent to some 220 million liters in 2016 from a year earlier, according to the Korea International Trade Association.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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