South Korea’s Liquor Lovers’ New Trend: “The Whiskey Run”

South Korea’s Liquor Lovers’ New Trend: “The Whiskey Run”

Yesterday, I read a piece of interesting news about a group of people of different ages doing a thing called “Whiskey Runs” in Korea. Many of us who travel a lot will be familiar with the terms “Mattress Runs” or “Mileage Runs,” but not quite something described as “Whiskey Runs.”

What is a “Whiskey Runs?”

Literally, as the phrase says, Whiskey Run is flying to get a whiskey from some other destinations. Their purpose is only to shop for imported alcoholic beverages at airport duty-free shops and come back to their home with the next flight. So why this is an emerging thing now in Korea?

Based on the import of single and double malt whiskeys from overseas, mainland South Korea has limited stock of whiskeys compared to Jeju Island due to the global logistics chaos caused by COVID-19.

The Price of Whiskey In South Korea:

Currently, the supply of imported whiskeys in South Korea is limited hence the price is skyrocketing. For example, a regular Glenfiddich 30 years old whiskey costs a retail value of US$399 but last week in Seoul, the same item cost a whooping US$723.

The price of whiskey in Namdaemun Market has more than doubled since last year due to slow supply of imported liquor. “Single malt whiskey products have dried up completely.”

Merchants at Namdaemun Market

Even as the price soars up, the demand is increasing and supply is limited at the same time causing inevitable consequences.

Why Jeju International Airport Instead of Other Cities?

Jeju Island is a wonderful place to spend if you visit Korea. There are many attractions to visit from dormant volcanoes to beaches.

But the reason why whiskey runners love to fly over to Jeju Airport is that, Jeju’s duty-free shops are the only few airports to import large amounts of liquors as this island is the busiest domestic route in South Korea with up to 200 flights daily accepting more than 400,000 passengers. Therefore, it is supplying these liquors at a relatively stable price compared to the mainland.

“Individual importers have a lot of fluctuations in prices due to poor supply, while duty-free prices are only affected by the dollar exchange rate.”

Jeju International Airport Duty-Free spokesperson

And one crew member of an airline operating the Seoul/Gimpo-Jeju route said:

“It’s easy to recognize because there’s always only whiskey and wallets in the hands of so called Whiskey Runners.” He added, “These days, there are a lot of people who ride with only a bottle of whiskey without luggage.” They usually use flights during the early morning hours because the popular imported whiskey inventory is sold out at 8 a.m. at duty-free shops.

Summary:

I have seen a few different types of runs but no such thing called as a duty-free liquor run until now. Even if there is a purchase restriction, the profit margin of round-trip flight tickets from Seoul to Jeju plus the cost of liquors can save up to US$200.

Indeed, some will purchase and consume it but I found more and more people reselling at a higher price that is why these “Whiskey runners” is increasing nowadays at least they can cash up their wallets.

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