For centuries the people in China have enjoyed booze at celebrations, but few drank regularly. As incomes have shot up over the past 35 years, alcohol consumption has accelerated, says an article in The Economist. This article published in August this year together with its aptly crafted title ‘The Spirit Level’ and loud imagery showing a group of youth each with a bottle of the local Baijo to his lips, does enough to catch attention.
What the article presents is nothing economists would find alarming, who have for long found a positive correlation between growth in GDP and alcohol consumption. Indeed in case of China it has been sprinting in alcohol consumption as the GDP kept growing over the last decade, with the average annual consumption rising from 2.5 litres of pure alcohol in 1978 to 6.7 litres in 2010.
Soju and Agriculture in the 20th Century
Like shochu, soju is a distilled product, but in Korea, the materials with which soju was traditionally made was generally restricted to rice, with a small number of producers using cereals such as barley or wheat. Up until 1910, there were a number of independent producers of soju, but during the Japanese occupation of Korea, many of these operations were shut down. Only a small number of producers that were supportive of Japanese government and policy were granted special privileges to run their stills. Meanwhile the Japanese colonial government instituted several changes to boost Korean productivity, through the introduction of improved infrastructure such as railways, modern medicine, and what was called the Rice Production Development Program, with the final goal being to increase resources available to the Japanese Empire. During the course of WWII, these gains in rice and cereals production were lost, as they were diverted to the Japanese military, forcing the few distillers in operation to limit their production or shut down for want of raw materials.
So in one of my MBA courses, I was asked to write a paper about some of the G20 nations, on any topic I liked. The next couple of posts are the paper that myself and two of my classmates wrote
In the 1950’s, the Asia Pacific region was victim to the travesties of the Second World War, but what followed was an unprecedented ascension to economic power in East Asian countries such as Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong. From the Japanese zaibatsu to the Korean Chaebol, from the shift of agriculture state to manufacturing to high technology, Korea and Japan have lifted themselves from near ruin to become key members in the G20 group of nations.
But with the rise came an interesting shift in culture. Traditionally, Japan and Korea both enjoyed a rich drinking culture revolving around their historical alcoholic beverages; maekgolli and soju for Korea, and sake and shochu for Japan. As both nations established national corporations, as the average worker saw an increase in their discretionary income, as incremental globalization saw the import of foreign goods, the inhabitants of these countries found themselves with an appetite for all things western. Continue Reading