Korean TV Drama Causes Surge in Beer Sales to China

Issue 52 - Beer - iStock_000009575726Medium_1
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The huge popularity of "My Love from the Star," which features a female character who's crazy about fried chicken and beer, has led to a 200 percent spike in Korean brew exports.

Korean beer exports to China spiked some 200 percent in March, thanks to the huge popularity of a Korean TV drama featuring a heroine with some quirky eating habits.

My Love from the Star follows an extraterrestrial who falls in love with a top Korean actress (played by real-life mega-star Jun Ji-hyun), who happens to have a thing for chimaek, the popular Korean snack of fried chicken and beer. The show makes much of her personal tradition of eating the dish to celebrate the year's first snowfall. 

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Her culinary predilections appear to be catching on in the show's largest foreign TV market. My Love from the Star, which is aired at home by Seoul Broadcasting System and finished broadcasting its first season in China weeks ago, was one of the most watched TV series on China's increasingly popular streaming TV sites, such as LeTV.com and iqiyi.com. 

And according to Korea's Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, beer exports to China in March were $1.04 million, up 201 percent from a year earlier. In February, the Wall Street Journal reported a similar spike associated with the show at Korean fried chicken restaurants in Beijing. “I have been doing fried chicken business for eight years, but this is the first time I’ve seen so many Chinese clients coming to order fried chicken with beer,” one chicken vendor in Bejing's Wangjing district told the Journal

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South Korean newspaper The Chosun Ilbo reported on Tuesday that Korean breweries have begun aggressively targeting the Chinese market. Popular local beer maker Hite Jinro recently introduced a low-calorie beer there with 3.5 percent alcohol content, adding to its 2.8 percent beer brewed with European hops. Competitor OB Beer, meanwhile, is selling its somewhat stronger 4.5-percent beer in China.