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[Opinion] Soju

Posted September. 22, 2005 07:44,   


Alcohol is a sweet liquid that satisfies one’s spirit. It is one’s closest friend in helping relieve stress. It makes one able to enjoy happiness to the fullest, while calming down one’s saddened heart. Interestingly, the word “alcohol” is derived from Arabic meaning “powder.” ”Al” is an article, while “cohol” means eye shadow for Arabian women. The word, meaning powder for eye shadow, was converted into “purest essence,” making the essence of the liquid to be called “alcohol.”

Before the name “alcohol” was attached to it, it was more like a drug or the essence of powder. In the East, alcohol was regarded as “the best of all,” meaning it was better to one’s body than anything else. Similarly, just like a drug, too much alcohol can become poisonous. That is why alcohol is also called “the worst of all.” As such, alcohol has both sides of a coin as it relieves and intensifies pain concurrently.

The favorite alcohol for average Koreans is probably soju. A cup of soju can clear a day’s struggles and fatigue away. It would be hard to welcome tomorrow without melting today’s fatigue “with a cup of clear soju,” as one poet expressed. It would not be coincidental that soju, the cheapest of all alcohol, does the “least harm” to one’s body. In the case of Japan, there is a dramatic increase in soju consumption every year reportedly due to doctors’ advice. Compared to clear strained rice wine, whiskey, and beer, soju is reportedly less harmful to one’s body.

The soju tax has more than doubled in the past several years. The tax, which used to be 35 percent of the retail price, rose to 72 percent due to the pressure of the European Union seeking to sell more whiskey. The whiskey tax was lowered to 72 percent from 100 percent, which is now finally same to soju tax. It means that people’s pockets have emptied more as they drink soju. On the issue of raising the soju tax to 90 percent, the government and the opposition party are both struggling to beat each other. The government says it “cares about the public health” when it in fact seeks higher tax revenues. It does not seem genuine at all, angering the public. The opposition party is no better. Merely discouraging the government from raising the soju tax would not buy the public when shrinking, such as the bloated budget in the opposition party, is its top priority.

Kim Chung-shik, Editorial writer, skim@donga.com