By Lee Duk-joo and Kim Hyo-jin
Sales of soju, a South Korean distilled liquor, are growing at a brisk pace in Southeast Asia and are likely to touch $10 million this year helped by the ever-growing popularity of Korean pop culture in the region.
Hite Jinro Co., the country’s top soju maker, said Sunday that soju shipments to Southeast Asian countries including Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand reached $5 million in the first half of the year, up 51.5 percent from the same period a year earlier.
Soju exports to the region, driven by its main soju brand Chamisul, have posted double-digit growth in recent years, from $4.9 million in 2015, $6 million in 2016, to $8.8 million last year, the distiller said.
“Interest in Korean food and drinks has been rapidly spreading among young Southeast Asian consumers thanks to the sweeping popularity of Hallyu, or the Korean wave, including music, drama and movies,” said an official from Hite Jinro. “At the current pace, we’re likely to hit a sales milestone of $10 million in Southeast Asia this year.”
Hite Jinro has been intent on expanding its presence in Southeast Asia after setting up its first regional outpost in Hanoi, Vietnam in March 2016. To accelerate its push into the burgeoning Vietnam market, it established a second entity in Ho Chi Minh City in February.
Soju is attracting a growing consumer base in Cambodia as well. Hite Jinro said it sold $700,000 worth of soju in the country in the first six months of the year, more than threefold what it sold a year ago. It also saw sales in 2017 more than double on year.