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South Korea to ban drinking scenes from nation's soju commercials

South Korea to ban drinking scenes from nation's soju commercials
South Korea's distilled soju liquor has lowered alcohol content over the decades. File Photo by Yonhap/EPA

Jan. 2 (UPI) -- South Korea is to ban television images of celebrities enjoying alcoholic beverages in 2020, even as TV commercials featuring soju, the national distilled liquor, are back on air following a decades-long absence.

Seoul's health ministry has decided images of well-known television personalities consuming beer or soju in Korean commercials are to be edited out, citing low-level regulation, Newsis reported Thursday.

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Alcohol commercials will also not be allowed to air during programs targeting young adults. The commercials are already restricted to the hours of 7 to 10 p.m., according to the report.

The new rule comes a few weeks after a national health law adopted on Dec. 15 restricted alcoholic beverages with an alcohol content of 17 percent or higher from airing on television, but allows for all other beverages that do not cross the threshold to buy air time, according to the Hankuk Ilbo.

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South Korea's beverage industry has been adapting to a changing market. Soju's alcohol content in 1995 was estimated to be about 25 percent on average; alcohol content has been steadily declining, reaching an average of 16.9 percent in 2019, which is below the current threshold.

An industry source who spoke to the Hankuk Ilbo said lowering soju's alcohol content has enabled liquor manufacturers to reach a large demographic, including "young people and women." Soju has previously been portrayed as a masculine drink for people with strong stomachs, but the perceptions are changing with new marketing strategies, according to the report.

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New food regulations are hitting South Korea's biggest coffee chains as well, according to Newsis.

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Major chains operating at least 100 coffee shops across the country will be required to label caffeine content on their beverages. The labeling law also applies to fast food chains and bakeries.

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