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Scots Hope Free Trade Pact Changes South Koreans’ Tastes

South Koreans drink about 3.5 billion bottles of beer each year and nearly as many bottles of the national drink, soju, distilled from rice or other starches
South Koreans drink about 3.5 billion bottles of beer each year and nearly as many bottles of the national drink, soju, distilled from rice or other starches

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Barring any final legislative hurdles in Seoul, the European Union and South Korea are to eliminate 97 percent of all tariffs on each other’s goods from the beginning of July. The EU’s first free-trade pact in Asia is expected to send South Korean exports of cars and consumer electronics to Europe soaring. European exporters are anticipating greater sales in South Korea.

One traditional Scottish industry hopes to take advantage of the pact.

South Koreans drink about 3.5 billion bottles of beer each year and nearly as many bottles of soju, Seoul's national drink which is distilled from rice or other starches.

By comparison whisky is a drop in the bucket, with less than 30 million liters consumed annually.

That is predicted to increase as the 20 percent tariff on European whisky is phased out.

Scottish distilleries are already campaigning to persuade South Koreans to choose premium single malts over blended whiskys.

Leading the charge, right behind the bagpipers, is Britain's ambassador, Martin Uden.

"So now, I think it’s time to move on. Now once you’ve discovered that you like these blends now to move on, as it were, to where they came from to their roots, to the individual distilleries," he said. "I think it’s something the Korean consumer is going to want to do."

Most Scotch sold here is used to concoct poktanju, literally: the "liquor bomb” Shots of whiskey are submerged in glasses of beer and downed quickly.

The boilermaker is so popular in South Korea the country has now become the leading importer of several brands of blended Scotch.

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