Plant and fruit-based alcohol gain popularity

North Korean alcohol
Regional varieties of alcohol sold in markets in North Korea. / Image: Daily NK

North Korean food and beverage factories have ramped up production of alcoholic beverages using medicinal plants and fruits, Daily NK has learned. 

“There’s a wider diversity of alcohol made with medicinal plants and roots, and consumers now have a greater selection of soju and other alcoholic beverages to choose from,” a Ryanggang Province-based source reported on Wednesday.  

In addition to more widely-known beverages such as Taedong River Beer and Pyongyang Soju, there are other popular drinks in North Korea including blueberry wine and even matsutake (pine mushroom) wine. 

There are also soju brands specific to particular cities in the country, including varieties popular in Ryongam, Hyesan and Hamhung. 

Alcohol easier to buy than before

Local varieties of soju, in particular, are easier to buy than ever before.

“In the past, you had to go from market to market to find Kaesong Koryo ginseng soju, but now it’s available everywhere,” the source said. 

Multiple Daily NK sources say that the greater availability of alcoholic drinks is due to competition between different alcohol factories. North Korea’s government has also lowered regulations on the sale of alcohol in the country, and Daily NK sources point out that more North Korean women are consuming alcohol than before. There are signs, however, that the regime is concerned about excessive alcohol consumption.  

Another Ryanggang Province-based source added that many Chinese traders are attracted to mountain berries and medicinal plants from areas like Hyesan near the Sino-North Korean border because they are considered to be high quality. An increasing volume of these fruits and plants are now being used in alcoholic drinks enjoyed by North Koreans. 

North Korean soju is 23% alcohol, which is higher than South Korean varieties. Alcoholic beverages brewed with medicinal plants or fruits are typically 40% alcohol and relatively expensive. 

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