The distillation method of making liquor first
entered Asia from the Persian Islamic culture,
through Mongolia's Y an Dynasty. It was introduced
to Korea when Kublai, grandson of Ghenghis Khan,
advanced into the Korean peninsula on his expedition
to take Japan. Evidence for this is the Arabic word
for soju: "arag." Soju is called "arangju" in
Korea's Pyongan Province, and "aragju" in the city
of Kaes ng. The manufacturing process for soju was
passed on from the Mongol garrison in Kaes ng and
advance bases in Andong and Cheju Island.
Soju has various names in Korea.
It is called noju, "distilled liquor," for its
distillation process, and hwaju, "fire liquor,"
for the fire that is used to distill it.
It also known as hanju, kiju, etc.
It was more popular in the Chos n period.
We find many records of soju from that time.
In the Danjongshillok, "The True Record of King Danjong,"
it is written that King Danjong became too weak to
perform his royal duties after King Munjong and
his ministers made him drink soju to recover his spirits.
They did not drink large amounts, but used small cups,
because soju was drunken as medicine.
Thus, a small cup is known as a "soju cup."
At first, only the king and other nobles drank soju
for non-medicinal reasons. Gradually, soju spread
to the common people as they learned how to brew
larger quantities in their homes.
The modern method of manufacturing soju originated
in Py ngyang in 1919, and spread to Inch n and Pusan.
Originally, soju was made from conventional malted
wheat (heukguksoju). Beginning in 1952, soju began
to be made from cheaper imported molasses.
The laborious, time-consuming method of distilling
pure rice wine, with its unique bouquet,
has vanished without a trace, after the government's 1965
food policy banned the use of grain in manufacturing alcohol.
The current process of distilling soju has been
diluted with the use of sweet potatoes, molasses,