Korea Ginseng Wine toasts overseas success

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Korea Ginseng Wine toasts overseas success


Korean Ginseng Wine, which was taken off the market here six years ago, has been a big hit abroad.

Referred to as the “magic drink” or “oriental liquid Viagra,” Korea Ginseng Wine is so popular that made-in-China counterfeits are appearing in Hong Kong, and there is a shortage in Nigeria even though it can go for $40 for a 700 milliliter bottle.

Lotte Liquor, which exports Korea Ginseng Wine, said Wednesday it is especially popular in Africa and the Middle East.

“It is selling like hotcakes in those regions while being referred to as the ‘Viagra of East Asia’ with a whole ginseng root in the bottle,” said a Lotte Liquor spokesman.

Korean companies entered the Middle East and Africa in the 1990s and ginseng often was given as a gift.

One of the reasons for the success of Korean Ginseng Wine was the tailoring of exports to local preferences - 35 proof wine to Nigeria and 25 proof to Hong Kong and Japan.

Lotte Liquor has produced ginseng wines since 1972 from Geumsan County, South Chungcheong and Punggi-dong, Asan, South Chungcheong, but stopped selling it in 2007 in Korea, where many people make their own wine by leaving ginseng inside soju.

Since then, starting with Hong Kong and Japan, the company focused on exports, which reached 72,000 bottles worth $1 million in 2010. By last year, exports hit 85,000 bottles worth $1.2 million and the company expects to export 100,000 bottles this year.

Korea Ginseng Wine has become so popular, that Chinese imitations costing 60 percent less have appeared in Hong Kong. The shape of the bottle, label, color and size of the Chinese characters are virtually indistinguishable from the real thing.

“We are planning to strengthen the crackdown on counterfeit dealers in cooperation with local police,” said a Lotte Liquor official. “By expanding the number of exporting countries, we hope to lead the Korean wave of ginseng wine.”

By Chang Jung-hoon [kjy@joongang.co.kr]
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