On February 23, 2002 Kim Jong Il was looking round a new liquor shop at the Taehongdan Potato-Processing Factory.
Displayed at one side of the packaging room were bottles of potato liquor. The alcohol contents were 25%, 30%, 40%, etc, but the bottles looked alike. So did the trademarks.
The General was unhappy about it but an official began to brag about the products.
Citing a European wine, he said, “The product of this factory is better than the wine. This foreign product contains 30mg of aldehyde and methanol per litre, and the potato liquor, 4mg. That’s why one hardly feels a headache and can soon recover from a hangover.”
The General commented that such a liquor could not be called good because people would drink liquor to feel drunken.
He picked up an uncapped bottle and smelt it.
Officials stood anxiously for his comment as if they were students eager for their test results.
Laughing aloud, he said, “It smells like moonshine.”
This humorous comparison created a ripple of laughter among the officials, who were impressed by his keen wit.
The official, who was boasting of the liquor, felt ashamed.
The General told him in an encouraging tone that it got off to a good start and it was necessary to give wide publicity to the potato liquor, stressing that its high quality should be advertised in international market as well.
The official was filled with remorse and made up his mind to develop the liquor into a quality product with a unique taste.
The General advised that the designs and colours of trademarks and bottles of the liquor should vary according to its alcohol contents. Then he asked officials if they knew about world-famous brands, their histories and alcohol contents.
They all stood dumb.
He said with a smile, “Since olden times soju has been famous in our country and I cannot see the reason why the potato liquor with an alcohol content of 25% is not called soju. As its alcohol content is low, soju has been warmed up before drinking.”
He went on to tell about some other brands: Japanese sake is 16%. Historically, the Japanese have preferred to drink it. They do not like soju because it is stronger than sake. Vodka originated in Russia. Its alcohol contents are 42% and 45%. In Russia they do not produce liquor with an alcohol content lower than 42%. Vodka is cooled before drinking, and it smells fragrant. The Russians keep ice chips in a fridge and put them in the cups. Vodka has a good taste. China’s famous brands are mao-tai and baijiu. They are very strong. …
In this way he gave a detailed account of Korean soju and other foreign brands, their histories, alcohol contents and ways of drinking.
Officials were attentive to this “special lecture” as if they were listening to an interesting fairy-tale from a teacher.
The General finished his story by reiterating that the potato liquor from Taehongdan should win fame in international market.
Now this liquor wins the top prize at the national liquor show that is held every year in the country, and it has gained much popularity among foreigners.