|Lee In-ki speaks during an interview with The Korea Times at the Beer Post Bar in Seoul, Dec. 19. / Courtesy of the Beer Post|
By Kwak Yeon-soo
Lee In-ki, a craft beer maker, never thought he would be organizing the Korea International Beer Expo (KIBEX), the only beer-specialized fair in Korea.
The craft beer enthusiast started getting serious about home brewing as a hobby, and came to love it after tasting a wide variety of homemade beers.
Lee currently operates a craft brewery in Seoul and runs the Beer Post, a company that specializes in beer-related media content.
"Before shifting my interest to beer, I worked as a producer in the entertainment industry for nearly two decades," he said. "Based on my content creation and production skills, I wanted to share a wide variety of craft beer with drinkers."
Lee added that the main reason he came to organize the KIBEX was to grow the craft beer industry.
According to him, a growing number of drinkers are seeking new flavors and are keen to experiment. "In Korea, a niche yet growing segment of drinkers is showing a preference for craft beer," he said.
The event organizer expected that Korea's new liquor tax system, moving from a price-based to volume-based system, will bring benefits to smaller craft beer players and brands.
"Levying taxes according to volume will raise our competitiveness in the market. I think it will be an opportunity for craft breweries to win more consumers," Lee said.
According to 2018 data from Korea Craft Brewers' Association, craft beer accounted for 63.3 billion won ($54 billion), or 1.4 percent of the beer market here.
"For the 2020 KIBEX, slated for March, we have doubled the exhibition size compared with last year's event, and the number of participating countries will increase significantly," Lee said.
At KIBEX, visitors can see and experience all businesses of the beer industry value chain from production to distribution, packaging and consumption. This year's event will be held at aT Center in Seoul for three days from March 19 to 21.
Beer professionals from a number of nations will participate in the event, including those from the U.S., Germany, the U.K., Belgium and China.
He added that Korea International Beer Awards (KIBA), the first international beer competition in Korea, will be held alongside the exhibition.
More than 300 kinds of beers at home and abroad are expected to be considered, and 30 overseas and domestic beer experts will join the event as judges.
"My wish is to leverage KIBEX into an international beer exhibition," Lee said.