60 seconds: North Korean rice wine
Chalkmarks Wine

What it is?

Koguryo Traditional Oriental Medicine.

O…k, is this wine?

Yep but it’s a nice bottle of rice wine from North Korea.

One question?

Shoot. Wait. No. I mean…go ahead.

What’s the problem?

Shhh, I’ve probably got the only bottle outside the country. 

I’m listening…

Well, it’s been banned since the Korean War. There are lots of international sanctions in place and wine is just one of them.

They must really hate each other. Wau?

No. War!

I know. Wau is Korean for wow. 

Well, I know that. And BTW, I saw BTS at the 02 you know! 

Name one of their songs?

Gangnam Style.

Sigh! 

Don’t be snarky. 

Did you smuggle it in? 

Nooooo. I popped in to the no-man’s land area at the border between North and South Korea. It’s sold only in this area called the Demilitarized Zone or the DMZ for short. This is the only place where you can cross over in to the North.

Tricky. Was there any risk?

Not really. It was in the gift shop – up on the shelf alongside the nuts, chocolate and barbed wire.

Let’s crack it open then?

No way! I’m never going to open it. This bottle is a collectors item. It’s as rare as the Crown Jewels. It’s gonna make me rich.

But it’s just rice wine. What’s your selling point?

This is like the last choccie biscuit in the packet and there’s no more in the shop. We were told at the DMZ that they weren’t getting any more wine. This bottle is getting more precious by the second. 

So, what does it taste like? 

I dunno. I don’t think it’s going to be oaky or zingy or even sweet. It’ll have a unique flavour for sure. We only hear about North Korea when there’s bad news. No-one thinks they’re out there making wine.

Splendid. I’ll make you an offer: I’ll give you a fiver?

That’s outrageous. A flight is around £400 then a tour to the DMZ is £30. Plus the wine cost me £17, which makes it the most expensive bottle of wine I’ve ever bought. A bit steep, I know. Aaaand it has that expensive ginseng leaf floating inside. All in, it’s worth at least £447! 

You’re nuts. This is just a novelty for tourists. 

Er, excuse me but no. I don’t think you quite appreciate….Look, I’m just gonna tweet this out there and you’ll see the offers role in. 

Do it!

Funny you say that because you’re banned from buying it. 

Wau! that’s mature.

Help!

What now?

I’ve dropped it!

Genius!

Wait. I still have the box. I’ll take that fiver!

I need a drink 

Get back to me?

Chalkmarks DMZ
Chalkmarks DMZ
About Chalkmarks
Author Natalie Chalk

Natalie Chalk is a journalist and travel writer who has worked on the news desks of the MailOnline and the Daily Express. She has recently written about learning to burlesque in Czechia, surf in Norway and wander the medieval streets of Malta for which she was nominated for the Malta Tourism Award 2014. She’s written for all the UK’s national newspapers with travel features appearing in the Guardian, TNT Magazine and Express Newspapers. She has lived in Peru, Nigeria and Portugal and earlier this year she returned to London after travelling the world for 14 months, visiting 39 cities. In 2017, Chalkmarks.co.uk was named Top 10 UK Travel Bloggers.

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