Beer imports drop 20 pct in Q1 after Tsingtao urination video

SEOUL, South Korea's beer imports dropped 20 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, according to data on Wednesday, as beer purchases from China plunged following the release of a viral video showing a man urinating into a tank at Tsingtao Brewery last year. The country imported US$45.16 million worth of beer products in the three months ended in March, down from $56.28 million during the same period of last year, data from the Korea Customs Service (KCS) showed. Beer imports from China plummeted 62 percent on-year to $4.78 million during the cited period. But Japanese beer brands apparently benefited from the urination incident at Tsingtao. Beer shipments from Japan more than doubled to $14.93 million in the first quarter from $6.63 million a year ago, the KCS said. For the whole of 2023, beer imports from Japan topped other import brands with US$55.5 million, jumping from the previous year's $14.5 million. Japanese beer imports ranked first with $78.3 million in 2018, but they nosedived to $39.7 million in 2019 due to Japan's restrictions on exports to South Korea of key industrial materials for the production of semiconductors and displays. In 2019, Japan also removed South Korea from its list of countries given preferential treatment in trade procedures. Seoul viewed the moves as retaliation against 2018 Supreme Court rulings here ordering Japanese firms to compensate South Korean victims of forced labor during Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula. The rebound in beer purchases from Japan is attributable to improved relations between Seoul and Tokyo from last year after President Yoon Suk Yeol offered to resolve the forced labor issue by compensating victims on South Korea's own without asking for contributions from Japan. Japan also reinstated South Korea on its "white list" of trusted trading partners last year, about four years after the removal, in a move to improve the bilateral economic relationship. In contrast, beer imports from China ranked third last year with $30.1 million, down from the previous year's top ranking with $36.4 million. The video released on Oct. 19 shows a uniformed man climbing over a high wall and urinating into a Tsingtao beer tank. Tsingtao said the batch of malt had been sealed off from use, and BK Co., which imports Tsingtao beer for distribution in Korea, said the plant in the video produces beer for local consumption in the Chinese market. But the incident reignited concerns among consumers over the safety of Chinese food and beverage products. Source: Yonhap News Agency