North Korea launches investigation to track down counterfeit liquor production

Taedonggang Foodstuff Factory
Taedonggang Foodstuff Factory. Image: Maeri

In the wake of a series of incidents involving residents falling ill (and in some cases dying) from counterfeit liquor, the North Korean government has launched an extensive investigation to track down the perpetrators responsible.

“There were lectures at the beginning of the month reiterating that the sale of Songak Soju is strictly forbidden. They explained that the issue is not the official product produced by the factory but counterfeit versions that have spread far and wide,” a source in Ryanggang Province told Daily NK.

“The lecturers said that at least one person in Pyongyang has died from drinking the toxic liquor, one in Nampo has lost his sight, and many others across the country have fallen ill,” he said, adding that the cause was said to be the methanol that has been detected within it.

Pyongyang authorities have launched an investigation to track down the manufacturer of the counterfeit liquor, who is said to be a resident of Pyongyang who worked at a chemical plant with easy access to methanol, which he mixed in with liquor and sold with a fake Songak Soju label.

“A printing factory in Pyongyang makes the official labels and you can find them along with other brand labels at any market. It’s basically impossible to tell the difference,” a source in Pyongyang explained.

However, multiple sources in Pyongyang reported that while the production and distribution of counterfeit liquor is nothing new, the strong response by the authorities to track down those responsible is unusual.

This, they said, is due to the fact that one of the victims is the son of a powerful official and purported close confidant to Jo Yong Won, who was promoted to first vice department director of the WPK Central Committee at the First Session of the 14th SPA held on April 11.

“His son and his friends drank the counterfeit alcohol and got really sick,” an additional source in Pyongyang reported.

“This has prompted an exhaustive investigation and brought on heightened surveillance. The central authorities have assembled and dispatched an inspection team to Kaesong to investigate the factory there that produces Songak Soju as well as all other plants producing alcohol in the area. The factory manager is currently in Pyongyang receiving the rebuke of a lifetime.”

Ha Yoon Ah is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about her articles to