Sales of pregnancy testing kits are rising in border regions of North Korea, Daily NK has learned. In the patriarchal North Korean society use of such kits had long been comparatively limited, but the desire to take control of issues of pregnancy in recent years has contributed to their popularity.
“Pregnancy testing kits are getting quite popular,” a source from North Hamgyung Province told Daily NK on the 19th. “It started with people going abroad and bringing them back then selling them, and now they're spreading.”
“Women tend to self-diagnose pregnancy by their menstrual cycle or confirm it with an obstetrician,” she went on. “However, there is a considerable margin for error there since a lot of obstetricians check with their hands [instead of machines].”
According to the source, big provincial hospitals are able to offer ultrasound technology to expecting mothers, but smaller local hospitals don't have this technology, resulting in misdiagnosis.
“At an obstetrician, they verify the patients’ marital statue first and then perform the diagnosis,” the source added. “It is still regarded as extremely odd for an unmarried woman to visit a hospital for this, and there is a negative social stigma attached to people who do.”
With the pregnancy test kits, women are finding that childbirth is their choice to a greater degree than had previously been the case.
The source added, “Married women often seek to delay childbearing because, as they say, ‘Having children makes you late to the market.’ It puts you at a financial disadvantage, so they try to delay it until they have made enough money.”
Contraception and abortions are both illegal in North Korea. Therefore, obstetricians offer abortions under the table. The source said that aborting an 8 week-old fetus costs 20,000-25,000KPW (North Korean won), while 24 weeks costs 40,000-50,000KPW and 32 weeks costs 70,000-80,000KPW.
“Pregnancy tests are economical and beneficial overall,” the source therefore concluded, adding, “Chinese ones are not always accurate in determining pregnancy even after 20 days, but Korean ones are good at catching pregnancy after just 14 days. That’s why people tend to prefer South Korean ones.”
South Korean pregnancy tests, which cost 80-100RMB in China, are twice the price of local ones, but they are more accurate, which leads obstetricians to try and get them from smugglers to sell on in the jangmadang (market). “They could sell the tests for twice what they cost and women would still buy them,” said the source.
However, she added, “Some people think of the tests as indicating a better quality of life, but others do view them as a negative thing that just increases sexual liberty.”