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Posted by on Aug 12, 2008

History of Beer in Korea

This is a very interesting article by Andrei Lankov of Kookmin University in The Korea Times on the history of beer in Seoul. I didn’t know that Sapporo and Kirin were there first, but I suppose it stands to reason. For those of you who don’t know the man, Lankov writes fascinating short histories on social and other developments in Seoul primarily from the turn of the 20th century, a period of great flux in Seoul.

Below is an excerpt. You can read the full article from The Korea Times website here.

“So, the introduction of beer only began at earnest in the 1890s, when Japanese merchants introduced the Sapporo brand to Korea. Japan is also a relative newcomer to the world beer scene. However, by the 1890s Sapporo was one of the oldest Japanese breweries, established in 1877, soon after the beverage was first introduced to Japan. Two other major Japanese breweries, Kirin and Asahi, began to sell their beverages in Korea a bit later, in the early 1900s.

The Korean name for beer, maekju, is of Japanese origin, but consists of two Chinese characters (the Chinese themselves use different characters, however). It means “barley liquor.”It seems that the first small brewery (I would probably not apply the modern description of “microbrewery”) began to operate in 1908 in Seoul, being open by Kirin.

Initially most of the consumers were local Japanese settlers, but in due time the beer began to win approval from Korean customers as well. The year 1933 was a great turning point in the history of the Korean beer industry. Almost simultaneously, two large breweries began to operate in Seoul (well, not quite in Seoul, strictly speaking, since the Yeongdungpo area where both factories were located, was only formally included in the city limits a few years later, in April 1936). “


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