Top 8 Most Iconic Faces Behind Korea’s Top Soju Brands– From IU to Kim Ji-won

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The certification check for the top star alcohol model has been long-standing, with IU holding the record. Female celebrities in Korea have traditionally been the face of soju advertisements.

Notably, Lee Hyo-ri’s endorsement of “Like the First Time” in 2006 caused a stir in the industry, while IU has been associated with Chamisul for a decade.

Amid the success of kdrama series ‘Queen of Tears,’ Kim Ji-won joins Lotte Chilsung Beverage, with Koo Kyo-hwan, for a new ad campaign titled ‘From the first time always by your side.’

Lee Young Ae: The Pioneer

In 1999, Lee Young Ae set a new trend by becoming one of the first women to model for soju. This move was considered quite unusual at the time. Lee Young Ae introduced a new brand named ‘Chamisul’ as its model. ‘Chamisul’ quickly gained popularity for its innovative approach to the soju market, offering a low alcohol content of 23 degrees and a smooth taste.

After her, Hwang Soo Jung, Park Joo Mi, and Kim Jung Eun all stated that they exclusively consumed Ee Seul, while Kim Tae Hee launched her “A shot of soju with me?” advertising campaign concurrently.

Lee Hyori: The ‘Whirlwind Liquor’ Phenomenon

“Shake it! It becomes softer” – Lee Hyori’s iconic slogan for Like the First Time

Lee Hyo-ri caused the rapid growth of Like the First Time by creating a soju advertisement syndrome. She made ‘whirlwind liquor’ popular among consumers by shaking soju and drinking it, and the ‘Hyori Ju’ craze was born. During her five-year tenure as the model, about 2 billion bottles of ‘Like Cheom’ were sold, and the brand’s market share increased from 11% to 15%.


IU: The Longest-Serving Soju Model

“Chamisul IU, the clean freshness brought to the liquor industry”

IU recently renewed her contract with Chamisul, continuing the relationship for 10 years and setting a new record as the longest-serving model in the liquor industry. Her involvement with the brand began in 2014, and her clean and differentiated image has greatly contributed to the increase in sales. In 2017, Chamisul became the first domestic soju brand to surpass 1 trillion won in sales.

Suzy: The Nation’s First Love

Suzy, who was widely loved by the nation, began her modeling career in September 2016 and continued for an extended period.

Known as the ‘Nation’s First Love,’ she participated in numerous campaigns over the span of four years, portraying a friendly and gentle image while promoting low-alcohol beverages.

However, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and a decline in Lotte Chilsung Beverage’s alcohol business, Suzy’s contract as a model came to an end after the initial four-year period.

Jennie (Blackpink)

Blackpink’s Jennie stars in her first ad for Lotte Chilsung’s soju brand Chum-Churum in 2021, reflecting the company’s rebranding strategy.

Chum-Churum’s history includes a shift from targeting men to women, with a decrease in alcohol content and the use of female models for promotion.

The ad showcased Jennie with a redesigned bottle featuring illustrations of white mountains and flowing water, along with a reduced alcohol percentage since its initial release in 2006.

Lotte Chilsung’s partnership with Jennie signifies a milestone in using a female star to endorse their soju brand, following a trend of employing female models for such promotions over the years.

Han So Hee

In a surprising turn of events, BLACKPINK’s Jennie has been replaced by Han So Hee as the model for the popular Soju brand Chum Churum after only two years, leading to speculation and debate among fans.

Jennie, as a member of one of the most influential girl groups in Korea, was seen as a fitting choice for the role. However, her short stint as the brand ambassador has raised eyebrows, especially considering that previous models like Suzy and Lee Hyori enjoyed much longer tenures.

The controversy surrounding Jennie’s replacement stemmed from rumors of low sales attributed to her endorsement. A Korean netizen shared an article suggesting that Chum Churum’s decision was influenced by declining sales since Jennie took over as the brand’s face.

However, it was later clarified that the statement did not come directly from Chum Churum but was based on media speculation.

Lee Min-jung

Jinro’s Chamisul’s commercials focus on presenting Soju as clean, neat, and natural, rather than a specific concept. Lee Min Jung embodies this image well, as seen in her humorous commercial with DJ D.O.C where Kim Chang Ryul tries to charm her into having another shot of Soju.

Kim Ji-Won

Kim Ji-won was introduced as a new face for Lotte Chilsung Beverage, following Jennie and Han So-hee. Alongside veteran actor Koo Kyo-hwan, known for his remarkable performance in Queen of Tears, they were chosen to represent the brand’s renewed image.

The latest advertising campaign, themed ‘From the first time always by your side,’ revolves around memories of various drinking occasions involving ‘The first time.’ Lotte Chilsung Beverage aims to deliver a unique experience to consumers through storytelling from the perspective of Soju, evoking nostalgia with phrases like ‘Like the first time’.

The Impact of Celebrity Endorsements

The use of popular female celebrities as soju advertising models has been a long-standing tradition in Korea. From Suzy, the ‘Nation’s First Love,’ to Kim Ji-won and Han So-hee, these stars have played a crucial role in shaping brand identity and driving sales.

However, the practice has also faced criticism, with some arguing that using young celebrities like IU encourages underage drinking.

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