National liquor reflects a given country’s physiographical conditions, national customs and history of wine making.

The national liquor of the DPRK is Pyongyang Soju. Pyongyang liquors have long been developed centring around Pyongyang, the cradle of the Taedonggang culture. The following is a legend related to the place. A king of Koguryo (277 BC–AD 668) decided to move the capital to the south, and dispatched an official to Pyongyang who was familiar with topography.

On arrival in Pyongyang, the official dropped in at a country house to ask for a bowl of water. The master of the house fetched water from a well near the house for him. Strangely, he felt relieved of fatigue and invigorated after drinking the water. He thus took a good rest that night. The next day he looked round many places which impressed him. Pyongyang had not only good water but also fantastic and beautiful landscape. After returning to the royal palace, he told the king what he had seen. “Pyongyang is really a beautiful place, and that might be why the sage king Tangun (the ancestral and founding father of the Korean nation) chose it as the capital,” the king said, and decided to move the capital to Pyongyang.

With such good water Pyongyang was well known for good liquors including Kamhongno, one of the three old famous liquors of Korea, and other famous liquors Pyokhyangju and Kwansogyedangju. Especially, Kamhongno was representative of Pyongyang. With its sweet and strong taste and crimson colour it ranked as the best among red-coloured liquors. The liquor was made by putting jujube, dried persimmon, apple and pear or medicinal materials such as longan, orange peel and pangphung (a medicinal plant of the family Umbelliferae) into soju. Pyokhyangju was made by putting cinnamon powder and honey into Kamhongno.

Pyongyang has long been famous for its production of soju. The old method of making the liquor is as follows:

Pour boiled and cooled water into cooked glutinous rice, polished rice, millet or kaoliang, and mix it with malt before keeping it in a jar for a week. Then put it into a pot and boil it to be distilled.

Soju was called hwaju as it was made by boiling, roju as it was made by cooling the vapour or paekju as it was clear and white.

It is the strongest among Korea’s traditional liquors. The following tells why soju became the main liquor of the Pyongyang area.

In the past, Pyongyang belonged to Phyongan Province. The temperament of the people in the province was referred to as maenghochullim which means that a fi erce tiger comes out from forest. Their characteristics—courageous, optimistic, enterprising and open-minded—were reflected in drinking liquor: they preferred strong liquors to mild ones. In the latter half of the feudal Joson dynasty (1392–1910) chongju (refi ned rice wine) and makkolli (unrefined rice wine) were the main national liquors together with soju.

In 2009, the Taedonggang Foodstuff Factory was built in a place with fresh air in the East Pyongyang area. It uses the water of the Taedong River to produce liquors which refl ect the sentiments and tastes of the Korean people. Among the liquors the 25-percent one is called Pyongyang Soju, and the 30- and 40-percent ones Pyongyang.

Pyongyang Soju is the most popular among the people. Its main raw materials are white rice and corn. As a colourless liquor, it tastes pure, suave and sapid, and is aromatic. Its fusel oil and aldehyde contents are below 0.002%, so one does not have a headache after drinking it.

The trademark of the national liquor depicts on a white and grey ground the Korean ancestors distilling liquor with the Taedong Gate symbolizing the Walled City of Pyongyang for a background, and is fixed with the red stamp Joson Myongju (Korea’s famous liquor).

The liquor won the February 16 Sci-Tech Prize, the top sci-tech prize of the country, and the December 15 Medal of Quality which is awarded to the best domestic products. It was designated as the national liquor on June 24, 2015.

Article: Rim Ok