Revealed: The must-have Korean travel item

Revealed: The must-have Korean travel item

Soju juice boxes spark international customs alert
It's juice, for sure, just a different sort of juice.

I’ll be frank. The first time I saw soju in juice boxes when I was a teenager, I remember wishing I actually liked the taste of it (obviously my perspectives were rather different then) so that I could smuggle them into my boarding school.

I knew they would never get caught by my dorm teachers –- the cartons just looked too cute to be alcohol containers.

Apparently, increasing numbers of Korean travelers are having the same idea.

The uncomfortable truth

The Chosun Ilbo, Korea’s largest newspaper, ran an article today titled “Soju packs--the uncomfortable truth," (link in Korean).  

According to the daily, the cute little soju boxes, called “pack soju,” are taking off as "must-have travel items" for Koreans going abroad. 

The reasons cited by the report are: first, they are easy to pack; second, their innocuous packaging makes them easy to slip past customs; and they also allow people to drink in public places abroad, again due to the fact that they do not look like alcohol, the paper said.

Finally, soju is expensive abroad, and Koreans apparently can’t bear to be parted from their signature drink for the length of their travels.

Drinking abroad 

soju Cute on the outside, bitter on the inside. According to the Korean daily, soju is currently sold to 50 different countries but is usually marked up to nine times the standard price in Korea, which is approximately ₩1,450 (a little more than US$1) per bottle. 

Curious about prices, we called up a New York restaurant called Won Jo. They told us they sell Chamiseul for US$13.95 per bottle when you order it with a meal. Liquor store chain Dan Murphy's in Australia sells it for slightly less.

“The phenomenon of pack soju represents Korean society’s drinking culture,” said Chosun Ilbo, and they don’t mean that as a compliment. The newspaper has been running a series of heavily editorialized articles about the negative impact of Korean drinking culture, with accompanying photos worthy of the hilarious blog Blackout Korea.


Even at the airports? 

Chosun Ilbo claimed that the phenomenon has gotten so rampant, airports are taking notice. 

"At a New Zealand airport, they have signs saying the amount of soju that travelers are allowed to bring into the country is restricted to 1,125 milliliters (5 packs of soju)," said the article.

"This means so many Koreans have been secretly bringing in pack soju and were caught." 

All this calls to mind that soju is the most-sold drink in the world.

The customs representatives for the airports could not be reached for comment. 

More on CNNGo: 20 delicious Korean drinks 

Frances Cha is a Digital Producer at CNN Travel. 


Read more about Frances Cha