South Korea: Japan Reclaims Top Spot in South Korea's Beer Imports

South Korea's renewed enthusiasm for Japanese beer has led to a remarkable resurgence this year, propelling Japan back to the pinnacle of beer-importing nations.

This marks a significant reversal of fortunes since July 2019 when Japan imposed export limitations on South Korea, causing Japanese beer to lose its position as the leading beer in the South Korean market.

In 2018, South Korea had imported a substantial 86,676 tons of beer from Japan, constituting 24.2 percent of its total beer imports according to trade statistics unveiled by the Korea Customs Service on October 2.

However, the landscape underwent a dramatic transformation in 2019, with Japanese beer imports plunging to 47,331 tons. This drop in ranking pushed Japan to third place, trailing behind Belgium (59,720 tons) and China (58,233 tons). By 2020, Japan had slipped even further to tenth place. The following year, it managed to claw its way back to ninth place and has now rebounded to claim the top spot this year.

The waning popularity of Japanese beer in South Korea was primarily attributed to diplomatic tensions between the two nations. In response to a South Korean Supreme Court decision concerning compensation for forced labor victims, Japan implemented export restrictions on semiconductors and other products in July 2019. This move triggered a boycott of Japanese beer in South Korea. (, 28.11.2019)

However, with the passage of time, the intensity of the boycott gradually diminished, allowing Japanese beer brands like Asahi, Sapporo, and Kirin to regain their prominence on the shelves of hypermarkets and convenience stores. (, 7.3.2023)

Recent trade statistics from the Korea Customs Service reveal that from January to August 2023, South Korea imported 36,573 tons of Japanese beer, accounting for a substantial 21.9 percent share of the nation's total beer imports, firmly reestablishing Japan at the summit of the rankings.

Among the countries importing beer, Japan was followed by China (32,153 tons), the Netherlands (29,243 tons), Poland (11,291 tons), Germany (9,911 tons), the United States (9,876 tons), the Czech Republic (8,850 tons), and Ireland (8,705 tons).

In contrast, in the previous year, Japan had imported 18,940 tons of beer, making up 8.8% of its total imports, which positioned it in third place behind China (46,504 tons) and the Netherlands (45,125 tons).

From January to August of the current year, Japan's beer imports have outpaced those of China (32,153 tons) and the Netherlands (29,243 tons), boasting an impressive 238.4 percent increase in Japanese beer imports compared to the same period last year.

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