The Korea Herald

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Japan tops Korea's beer imports in five years

By Mun So-jeong

Published : Jan. 17, 2024 - 15:41

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Cans of Japanese beer are displayed at a supermarket in Seoul, Wednesday. (Yonhap) Cans of Japanese beer are displayed at a supermarket in Seoul, Wednesday. (Yonhap)

Japan reclaimed the top spot in South Korea’s beer imports in 2023, five years following the start of the Tokyo-Seoul trade dispute, data showed Wednesday.

According to data from the Korea Customs Service, imports of Japanese beer products reached $55.51 million last year, a 283.3 percent increase from the previous year.

The figure was the highest since $39.75 million was posted in 2019, the year Japan imposed new restrictions on the export of three key semiconductor materials to Korea. This was an apparent response to Korean court rulings in 2018, which ordered Japanese companies to compensate victims of forced labor during World War II.

Being embroiled in the trade war, Korean nationals started a nationwide boycott of Japanese goods, leading to beer imports diving to $5.66 million in 2020, which is equivalent to ninth in beer imports to Korea by country. The value of Japan's beer imports to Korea slowly recovered two years later, but still remained at $14.48 million.

Japan-South Korean relations eventually thawed last year, when the two governments renewed ties at the Tokyo summit in March and agreed to restore each other to their original trade status.

Japanese beers such as Asahi and Sapporo also returned to supermarket shelves and convenience stores in Korea.

China, on the other hand, fell from its position as the top importer of beer to South Korea, to rank third last year. Imports of Chinese beer tallied $30.16 million in 2023, dropping 17.2 percent on-year.

The fall in Chinese beer imports occurred as a video of a Tsingtao beer worker urinating into a tank went viral in October last year. In December alone, imports of Chinese beer to Korea plummeted to seventh place.

The value of beers imported to Korea from the Netherlands ranked the country second place among all beer-importing countries here, posting $33.56 million in 2023.