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A Lady from Finland, Ms. Taru Salminen Falls in Love with Makgeolli

Because of Makgeolli, She Cannot Leave Korea for Six Years
Opened Makgeolli Pub “Taru Jumak” in 2010

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“Makgeolli? I love makgeolli very much. I don’t know about other topics, but about makgeolli I’m sure there is a story I can tell.”
Ms. Taru Salminen is a Finn who gained fame through guest appearances on the Korean talk show “A Talk with Beauties” broadcast by KBS (Korean Broadcasting System). “I’m a makgeolli buff,” she told Koreans via this talk show. Her knowledge of makgeolli is beyond that of just a fan: it is very extensive and near-professional. Needless to say, she knows well the ingredients and recipes of makgeolli, and can tell what kind of makgeolli she has just by its taste. She fell in love with makgeolli to the n-th degree even before the makgeolli boom started. She decided to share her affection with others and, in October 2010, she opened the makgeolli pub “Taru Jumak” in the Hongik University area. Now, she is spreading the gospel of makgeolli in her store.

I Missed Makgeolli Very Much in My Home Country

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Ms. Taru likes Korea and Korean culture very much. She first visited Korea because she had a Korean pen pal, and she enjoyed it so much that she came again in 2000 as an exchange student. She returned to Finland after finishing her studies in Korea but, back home, she couldn’t put Korean friends and foods out of her mind. That is why she came back to Korea again in 2006. “I met a lot of nice people in Korea. Besides, Korean foods match me very well. For this reason, I wanted to stay in Korea longer. I can’t believe six years have already passed.”

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When she was away from Korea, she missed makgeolli a lot. “When I was an exchange student, I was not much of a drinker,” she explains. At that time, popular alcoholic drinks such as soju (Korean distilled spirits) and beer were not to her taste. But makgeolli was different. It tasted really soft. “I had my first sip of makgeolli with my university friends. It was really delicious. It tasted more like a carbonated milk than alcohol. The harmony of the sweet and sour tastes and fragrance rang my bell. Since then, I’ve started tempting my friends to have makgeolli parties with me.”

Improving the Bottle Design Can Help Draw More Foreign Attention

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When asked to recommend a Korean alcoholic drink to a foreigner, Ms. Taru does not hesitate to name makgeolli. Every foreigner likes its tangy flavor.
“Makgeolli is really delicious. What’s more, every region in Korea makes its own makgeolli. But the design of the bottles is too crude to catch a foreigner’s eyes. If Korean makgeolli companies invest some time into developing a unique design with a label in English, foreigners will love makgeolli much more.” She went on about the importance of promotion: “In my country, I can buy Japanese sake very easily, but finding makgeolli is quite difficult.”
Ms. Taru said, “Kimchi and makgeolli are bosom buddies.” In her opinion, kimchi and makgeolli match well. But considering the preferences of foreigners, she recommended having pajeon (spring-onion pancake) and fried dishes as side dishes to makgeolli. “Makgeolli is delicious by itself, so it doesn’t need any side dishes. But makgeolli goes well with any kind of food.”
Ms. Taru says she is most happy when drinking makgeolli with nice people. With a smile, she revealed a secret about how to drink makgeolli more deliciously. “Firstly, choose good makgeolli, made with good rice and clean water. Do not put a makgeolli that has artificial additives on your wish list. Finally, mature the selected makgeolli at a low temperature. Shall we have some makgeolli?”

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Park Sung Eun  parkse@agrinet.co.kr

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