Recently a misleading article by the publication Quartz has been making its way around the social media world, and we’d just like to call bull sh!t on it. Entitled, South Koreans drink twice as much liquor as Russians and more than four times as much as Americans, the article essentially measures “liquor” by the milliliter and doesn’t bother to mention the alcohol content in that liquor at all.
Their information is based upon studies from Euromonitor of how many shots of any spirit are consumed by the average citizen of drinking age. Anyone who lives in Korea knows that the vast majority of Koreans’ citizens shots are soju, which has an alcohol content under 20% and takes up 97% of the spirits market. The entire world knows that Russians are typically drinking vodka, which has an alcohol content of around 40%. Of course Russians are going to drink less, as they are drinking twice the alcohol with each shot, while Koreans are able to drink twice as much soju because it takes more for them to get drunk. For actual alcohol (over-) consumption, it’s a tie!
Quartz can obviously be forgiven for assuming that the alcohol content in the typically-consumed soju is similar to that of vodka, as the spirit does sometimes come in higher alcohol content forms. They got one more wrong though, as they write, “South Korea’s unparalleled liquor consumption is almost entirely due to the country’s love for a certain fermented rice spirit called soju.” Soju isn’t made from rice anymore. It’s made primarily from potatoes and/or sweet potatoes.
So while not technically wrong, this article obviously leads readers who don't know better to think that Koreans are consuming twice as much alcohol as Russians and four times as much as Americans. While they're out-drinking most of the world here in Korea, it's certainly not by that much of an extreme.