The Story Of Soju
Updated: Oct 29, 2020
Soju is the 2nd most consumed drink behind beer in South Korea, and is known as the national drink because of how embedded in Korean culture it is. Ever wondered where it came from?
Soju is not native to South Korea - it was brought to Korea by Mongol invaders during the Goryeo Dynasty (1231–1259). It was traditionally made by distilling alcohol from fermented rice, but distilling rice was banned after the Korean war in 1965 due to concerns about the country’s insufficient rice crop. Distilleries then began using alternative starches like tapioca, wheat, and sweet potatoes. The ban was lifted in the late 1990s, but the manufacturing methods stuck and some of the biggest soju brands in Korea today are still using alternative starches.
The 1995 revised Liquor Tax allowed soju-makers to use additives in soju, such as oligosaccharide, a type of sugar substitute, and asparagine, one of the amino acids found in animal proteins. This made Soju sweeter and created subtle differences in flavour and aroma, which was a hit in Korea.
Because soju was so cheap and had high alcohol content, it quickly became popular in poverty-stricken Korea, especially after the 1998 economic crash.
Soon after, with health becoming a global concern, many contemporary Soju drinkers have started choosing drinks that seem better for health. Stevioside, a carbohydrate-free natural sweetener from South America, is now widely used by many soju brands like Chamiseul. New Soju brands with a milder, sweeter, taste and a healthier brand image have been rising in popularity in younger soju-drinkers.
Soju is now marketed as youthful, with the endorsement of many k-pop idols, actors, and hosts such as:
strong woman do bong soon drink soju
Credits: Go Korea - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPkGp8p3IpI
Actress Park Boyoung
Irene from Red Velvet
Credits: IU Jinro
Today, with people pairing Soju with street food, relaxation, and social gatherings, Soju has become a staple for many South Korean’s lives. You can find cheap Soju in every convenience store in South Korea, as well as the hangover remedies to go with it.