Beer democracyBeer is the third most consumed drink after water and tea. The popular beverage is deeply related to democracy. In the total alcohol consumption, the countries where people drink more percentage of beer is likely to be more democratic. If beer, which is relatively cheaper than whiskey or wine, is consumed more, it means that working-class people also enjoy drinking, hence economic equality and political liberty is allowed widely.
Moreover, there is also a research that when dictatorship is toppled and democracy is introduced, beer consumption increases more than any other drinks. Unlike stronger hard liquor, beer does not make you drunk quickly. So people like to drink beer when they can have long discussions.
In fact, Romania, which shares a lot in common with North Korea, saw 30 percent increase in beer consumption after dictator Nicolae Ceausescu was ousted. When beer is widely enjoyed, people are more likely to engage in serious discussions. Foreign media calls it “beer democracy.”
Leading beer brands around the world often have political stories. American beers Budweiser and Miller were founded in the Midwest, St. Louis and Milwaukee respectably. The German immigrants with outstanding beer-making skills settled in the region where environment was similar to their homeland.
Qingdao, a resort town in Shandong Peninsula, China, became the home of Tsingtao beer because Germany took over the peninsula in the late 19th century at the height of imperialism. Here, the Germans found quality subterranean water and began producing beer. Thanks to German brewing technology, Tsingtao Beer took the first place in the 1906 international beer contest.
Sapporo Beer, the first beer to be produced in Japan in 1876, is a legacy of Meiji Restoration. The Meiji government recognized the need to develop Hokkaido in the north and set up a development committee. The committee found that Hokkaido was a fitting environment for hops and began growing hops and making beer. Sapporo Beer label features the North Star, a symbol of the Hokkaido Development Commission.
This politically sensitive beer is said to grow popular in North Korea. From August 12, the Daedong River Beer Festival is being held in the riverside in Pyongyang. The Kim Jong-un regime wants to boast that it is going strong by showing off people drinking beer happily amid international sanctions. But they are mistaken. Beers are for discussions, and the more beers people have access to, more chances to discuss the contradictions of their system. Hopefully, beer democracy would kick in and help change North Korea change a bit.
JoongAng Ilbo, August 16, Page 31
*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.