Soju: History and Trivia about this Korean Drink!

Discover the most popular Korean drink in the world o Soju!

Soju (hangul: 소주; hanja: 燒酒) is a popular drink not only throughout North and South Korea, but around the world and is usually found in small bottles of 360ml or even 200ml.

One of the factors that helped to increase this popularity is the Korean dramas/films and their celebrities and K-pop (Korean pop) groups/bands.

This article is not intended to encourage the consumption of alcohol, but to be informative about the Korean soju drink. Drink with moderation!


Let's get to know a little more about this drink that is the favorite of Koreans and of those who also appreciate the Korean culture/wave (hallyu).

What is Soju?

Soju (소주) is a Korean distilled alcoholic beverage that has been popular in South Korea for many years.

The traditional ingredient for its manufacture is rice, but it can be found with others such as sweet potatoes, wheat, barley and tapioca. Its alcohol content generally ranges from 16-17% to 45%.


Distilled drink it is a process that separates two distinct liquid substances, usually water from alcohol, from a liquid fermented from grains. With this separation, it is possible to add more alcohol by increasing the alcohol content, "main objective“from a distilled beverage.


The origin of soju dates back to the 13th century (Goryeo dynasty) with the Yuan Mongols, who learned the distillation technique. arak of the Persians, in their invasion between the years 1231–1259 in Korea.

The Mongols made bases in the capital Gaegyeong, Andong, island of Cheju among other places, with plans to make an expedition to Japan (invasion) where distilleries were built transmitting the distillation process.


During the centuries that passed, soju was used both as a drink only for the high society of the time and for medicinal purposes.

Over time, the locals learned to produce inside their homes, thus becoming a drink for anyone, not just the elite.

In 1965, with the shortage of rice, the government banned the use of this ingredient to produce the drink and it was then that production with other grains such as sweet potato, tapioca, wheat, barley, among others began to appear.

Even with the lifting of the ban in 1999 allowing manufacturers to revert to using rice, many today continue to use a variety of grains in their manufacture.


Today we find the most diverse flavors and brands of this Korean drink.


There are so many brands of soju that it is difficult to know which to choose, but there is one that has been the world leader for many years.

The HiteJinro company manufactures very popular brands like Chamisul which has 19% of alcohol content and Chamisul Fresh with 17.8%.

According to the website “Drinks International” since 2001, Chamisul has been the number 1 distilled beverage among 180 brands. In 2018, it sold more than 78 million 9-liter boxes worldwide.

we have others popular brands according to each region/province.

ChamisulSeoul, Incheon and Gyeonggi
Chum Churumgangwon
O2LinnDaejeon and Chungcheongnam
Cool CheongpungChungcheongbuk
hitNorth Jeolla
charmDaegu and Gyeongsanbuk
gooddayUlsan and Gyeongsangnam
whiteUlsan and Gyeongsangnam
YipsejooGwangju and South Jeolla
AHop Si VahnGwangju and South Jeolla
helloJeju Island

In the image below is shown the favorite brands of Koreans in 2018 according to the statist website:

Soju: Koreans' favorite brands
Soju: Korean Favorite Brands

In North Korea it has its own brand also the Pyongyang Soju, since 2009 at the food factory on the Taedong River.

fruit soy

Aiming to increase sales, the most popular brands started to manufacture flavors of the most varied fruits in their drinks.


Some of the most popular flavors are:

  • blueberry
  • Lemon
  • Plum
  • Peach
  • Strawberry
  • Green grape
  • Grapefruit

Brands such as Hintejiro, C1, Chum Churum and others are the best known manufacturers.

Soju premium

Following the principle of traditional manufacturing, we have some brands that produce some premium sojus that, in addition to promising a quality above the popular ones (in manufacturing), the price is also well above.


Andong Soju is made by a renowned family, more specifically by the cho ok hwa currently, in the Andong region (possibly using the traditional method brought by the Mongols) which uses the best techniques/home methods that have been passed down from generation to generation.

The company/group Kwangjuyo, which manufactures ceramics, also produces one of the soju high quality premiums.

Hwayo emphasizes that in their manufacture they use the purest water, 100% Korean rice and with more than 700 years of tradition.

There are numerous sojus considered premium, Hitejinro itself manufactures, for example, the Chamnamootong MargeunisulIlpoom JINRO.


Drinks with Soju

Some complain that soju is a “tasteless drink”, they simply don't like the traditional flavor of the best-selling brands or want to give it a new flavor by creating the most varied drinks.

Most drinks/bombs are mixed with beer from brands like Cass and Hite.

Below you will see the most popular among Koreans and foreigners:

somaek (소맥)

It is nothing more than the soju plus Korean beer mix (Maegju – 맥주) in which the quantity of each item varies a lot, but it is usually 30% of soju and 70% of beer.

After mixing the two ingredients usually take a spoon, dip it in the glass with the drink and hit the bottom, generating a kind of whirlpool.

Poktanju (폭탄주)

It is similar in blending with somaek, but the difference is that the soju glass is thrown into the beer glass. It is often stacked in several cups, dropping them in succession.

Kojinkamrae (고진감래)

This one is adding one more ingredient and getting like this; 1 glass of soju + glass of beer + glass of Coca-Cola (the size of the soju glass).

For prepare the kojinkamrae It's simple. Soju and Coca-Cola are added to the empty glass and then the beer is poured.

There are many other types of drinks, including one that will Soju + Sprite + Yakult, but those above are the most popular. See below a video about:

In general the soju cup is 5cm x 5.5cm.

Etiquette when drinking soju

For those who know a little about South Korea, you know that, in addition to the language, the way of speaking informally and formally (as well as Japan) stands out for the most varied situations.

When drinking with friends, bosses and other people we also have to know how to behave in that kind of situation.

When you meet a superior or older person and they offer you a drink:

  • Hold it with both hands, one palm holding the glass and the other around it while keeping your head slightly lowered.
  • When drinking, turn your face sideways, still holding it with both hands, towards your superior/older person. If it's the first glass, turn it all at once.

Another way to show respect is to hold your glass with one hand and support your arm with the other as the person fills your glass.

If the person is a close friend you can only hold it with one hand.


Drinking alcoholic beverages on an empty stomach is not recommended, as it somehow makes you less resistant to alcohol, making it easier for you to get drunk.

That's why we always see some kind of dish and side dish when drinking soju and they are one of the most varied of Korean food.

calls from Anju (안주 – Snack) the accompaniments that are served together with alcoholic beverages.

Samgyeopsal (삼겹살)

Samgyeopsal literally means pork belly, but in this case it is skinless. Very popular with koreans.

The meat comes raw, so you can roast it on the grill and can be accompanied by lettuce, garlic and other foods. It can be considered the barbecue of the Koreans.

- soju: history and trivia about this Korean drink!
Samgyeopsal – Source: Wikipedia

Jokbal (족발)

Jokbal, pig's foot, is also one of the most requested foods by Koreans. It is usually sauteed in soy sauce, ginger, garlic and rice wine.

Dakbal (닭발)

They are well-spiced fried or grilled chicken legs and come with or without bone.

To eat it is necessary to wear disposable gloves. He usually appears a lot in Korean movies and series.

There are many more snacks that are considered good to accompany an alcoholic beverage.

Soju in dramas

Hardly you don't see scenes, in Korean series or movies, where they drink some kind of alcoholic beverage.

They often drink until they drop and don't remember what happened last night. It is very recurrent to see this. There are cases where they ask for Korean fried chicken (순살치킨) to be taken with a drink.

Soju in Korean drama (k-drama) chief kim
Korean drama (k-drama) Chief Kim

Soju always comes out as it is a very cheap drink, around 1 USD, in South Korea and it also has a strong commercial appeal. Many celebrities, whether actors or music groups, make commercials for this drink.

To get an idea actors like IU (Lee Ji-Eun), Suzy (Bae Su-ji), Lee Min-Jung, Hyuna, Song Joong-ki, Irene (Red Velvet) and many others have made or do commercials.

I believe that those soju boxes (soju box), sold for many years, also contributed to the increase among Koreans in the consumption of this drink.

Soju in a box
Soju in a box - Source

Note that it can easily be mistaken for a juice that uses similar packaging.

Recently the South Korean government is reviewing the alcohol promotion law where celebrities appear on labels.

It's normal for a Korean to drink after work, as it's like an extension of him. Those who refuse are frowned upon by colleagues. It's a kind of get-together to get closer.

The drinking culture in South Korea is strong, not hard to find people down in the street from drinking so much. It also helps a lot is that on every corner you can find a store that sells soju.

South Korea is the country where most alcohol drinks in the world
Research shows that South Koreans drink far more than any other people in the world, with an impressive average of 13.7 shots of drink per person per week. Source.

It's not all flowers, is it? If you are going to drink, drink in moderation and enjoy the best of this culture that is on the rise these days!

Did you like the article? Don't forget to share with all your friends. who like the korean culture!

Sources: linked in the article and queries to Korean magazine

Originally published in asian foods.