Guinness fights ban on black stout by Koreans

Guinness is to fight a ban on its black stout in South Korea which could hit sales all over the Far East.South Korean customs officials have banned...

Guinness is to fight a ban on its black stout in South Korea which could hit sales all over the Far East.

South Korean customs officials have banned imports of Guinness on the grounds that it fails to meet strict definitions for standard beers.

A Guinness spokesman said: "We want these strict regulations modified. Although the amount of trade we do in South Korea is small, we would like to grow there and rules like this do not help."

He added that representations would be made through the Irish embassy in Seoul and through other business routes.

The South Koreans insist in shaking Guinness in its container at 15oC to see if the gas is at the right pressure.

So far they are listening "sympathetically" to Guinness complaints, but there are fears that cultural prejudices may lie behind the ban.

Western diplomats in the country fear President Kim Young-sam is trying to limit consumer spending by attacking foreign "luxury" goods.

His efforts are driven by a slowdown in economic growth.

Guinness is not alone in being targeted by a campaign led by businesses and citizens groups which has already hit other products.

Sales of imported whisky are down 10 per cent so far this year.

The campaign makes it difficult for South Koreans to buy foreign products for fear of being branded "unpatriotic" for contributing to the nation's £25 billion current account deficit.

If South Korea succeeds in limiting its deficit through its campaigns, other "Asian Tiger" economies may follow suit in difficult times, say diplomats.

The South Korean Govern-ment can claim immunity from international action. It is committed to open market agreements with other countries, but officially has done nothing to break them.

Guinness has not been barred for competition reasons but for "health" reasons. The customs officials who banned Guinness will face no action from the government.

This will make it difficult for Guinness to lobby through the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

"We are not concentrating on the cultural background to this — we just want the regulations modified," added the Guinness spokesman.

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