About the Author
Chad O'Carroll has written on North Korea since 2010 and writes between London and Seoul.
A North Korean brand well known for innovation has launched a multi-pack boxset of canned beer, pictures from January show, representing a noteworthy upgrade in presentation from other local brands.
The Kyonghung brand, one of the main beer-producing rivals to North Korea’s ubiquitous Taedonggang, now offers an eight-pack presentation boxset that includes a free beer glass for promotional purposes.
“When I picked this beer box up at Kwangbok department store it was the first time I’d ever seen beer sold in a bundle – let alone having a freebie beer glass,” said Rowan Beard, a tour manager at Young Pioneer Tours.
Priced at North Korea’s semi-official – but most widely used – exchange rate, the multipack cost Beard 88,000 KPW ($10.66 according to the NK Pro Exchange Rate Index).
But though Kyonghung and fellow manufacturer Taedonggang have offered canned product since at least 2017, finding DPRK-brand canned beer is extremely difficult in Pyongyang. The vast majority of beer sold in the DPRK comes in glass bottles.
“When I showed their beer box to the staff back at the hotel they were surprised to see it,” Beard continued. However, “they thought it was too expensive – even for a free glass.”
Though the store only had one multi-pack in stock, Beard said Kyonghung “is one of the better beers available in the DPRK, so I’m glad to see more of these products coming from them.”
Kyonghung beer is manufactured at the Kyonghung Foodstuff Factory in Pyongyang.
North Korean state broadcaster Korea Central Television (KCTV) recently showed that the factory has also introduced a plastic bottle manufacturing line for its “Milky Way” (Unhasu / 은하수) brand of beer.
As with canning, plastic bottles are a rarity in the DPRK beer industry.
Kyonghung also pioneered transparent beer cans made of plastic in 2018, as well as a jumbo-size “draught beer” bottle which includes a large receptacle to drink the product from.
North Korea’s emerging beer industry has attracted a range of international commentators and reviewers overseas due to the high-quality some brands offer in comparison with mass-produced South Korean lagers.
One of the most notable things about the DPRK beer industry is that much of the brewing equipment used by the most well-known brand, Taedonggang, was imported from Trowbridge in the UK in 2000.
Edited by James Fretwell