Domestically-produced sanitary pads pushing Chinese products out of the markets

[As Heard in North Korea]
Kang Mi Jin  |  2017-11-02 16:58

"As Heard in North Korea" articles contain radio programming content broadcast by Unification Media Group [UMG], an independent multimedia consortium targeting the North Korean people.

Unification Media Group (UMG): South Korean women are being more careful these days when purchasing sanitary pads due to recent news that certain products may contain carcinogenic materials. Female consumers are wielding their influence as companies take on new efforts to develop products using all-natural materials. But what kinds of products are available to women across the border in the North? Today we speak to reporter Kang Mi Jin to find out more about the consumer habits of North Korean women and how the market for these products has changed in recent times. 

Kang Mi Jin (Kang): Before discussing the products available in the North Korean market, lets first take a look at a South Korean product for comparison. I bought a South Korean brand, 'Dasoni Sanitary Pad,' which on its label states that it includes 50 different natural minerals. It also claims to contain far infrared rays, which some studies allege help to reduce cramps and improve overall comfort during a woman's period. Consumers here think of this as a safe and trustworthy product. 

Dasoni claims that through the use of natural minerals, they are able to accomplish what a deodorant does but without any unnatural chemicals. Its also known for having effective antibacterial and anti-odor features, all through natural materials. As the number one brand in Korea, Dasoni touts its products as being highly absorbent, comfortable, and effective at reducing dryness and itching.

UMG: Our listeners in North Korea will be interested to hear about the products available in the South Korean market. How do the North Korean products compare?

KMJ: Before the 2000s, women exclusively used a kind of soft and light gauze made from cotton or artificial fabric. From the mid-2000s, Chinese-made single-use products began to find their way into the markets, but consumers in large part found them to be too expensive, and they soon disappeared. Merchants were following the markets, and the lack of demand naturally led them to seek out different, cheaper sanitary pads that would sell better. 

These days though, Taedonggang Sanitary Pads manufactured in Pyongyang have pushed the Chinese-made products out of the markets. Merchants are promoting their high quality materials, comfort, and low price. However, the quality of these gauzy cloth pads is not exactly perfect. They apparently do not stand up well to repeated washes, so they have to be discarded after 6 months to a year.

UMG: It appears that this is yet another example of the increase in share of domestically-made products in the markets today.

KMJ: That's right, and I was also surprised when I first heard about it from the source. I thought they were still using Chinese products. One thing to note though is that its officially called 'Taedonggang Hygiene Pad' in the North, as they do not use the same word as in the South ( or Saengnidae in South Korea, or Wisaengdae in North Korea). 

And yes, this is just one example of many North Korean products which are replacing the Chinese products that have dominated the markets for decades. Domestic rice now makes up about 50% of the market while domestic sweets and snacks make up close to 70% of the market. Consumers are beginning to prefer these over Chinese products due to their comparatively low price and also the fact that they are tailor-made to North Korean tastes. People are increasingly seeking out the cheapest products due to sanctions and the poor harvest this year, so sales of the cheaper sanitary pads are also on the rise. 

UMG: Do you think this shift in preference to domestically-made products will help improve the North Korean economy?

KMJ: According to the person I spoke with in North Korea, the availability of domestic products in the markets has indeed been on the rise. Furthermore, various products are getting package design upgrades to appear more modern. Sanitary pads used to be sold individually without any kind of packaging, but now packages of 10 can be seen in the markets with written instructions included.

UMG: We know that many home appliances and other South Korean-made products are popular in the North, so are there any South Korean sanitary pads available in the markets there?

KMJ: People in Ryanggang Province, for example, mostly use domestically-made sanitary pads, but there have been instances where South Korean-made sanitary pads have made their way into the markets in the capital. These pads were being sold for 1,000 KPW each, but there was such a limited quantity for sale and many merchants in the jangmadang were disappointed that they were not able to get a hold of any. 

UMG: What does a typical consumer pay for sanitary pads in North Korea today? 

Taedonggang brand packages (containing 10 pads) are currently being sold for 4,000-4,500 KPW in Ryanggang Province, according to the source. This equals about $0.50-$0.60 USD. A ten-pack of single-ply cloth pads on the other hand is being sold for around 7,000 KPW while the two-ply version is 10,000 KPW for a ten-pack, equivalent to about $0.85-$1.25 USD.

UMG: Thank you for providing information about this specific area of the markets, helping us understand little-by-little the full picture of the products available in the North Korean markets. 

*Translated by Colin Zwirko

Advertisements, links with an http address and inappropriate language will be deleted.