Many North Koreans widely prefer Japanese products over goods manufactured in China. Although South Korean goods such as electronics, clothes and cosmetics are steadily gaining popularity, Japanese products are still holding the number one spot in North Korea due to their affordability and reliability.
“Japanese bicycles, down-filled jackets, and shoes are very popular here. Despite the majority of products being sold secondhand, the quality is very good considering the price,” a source from Ryanggang Province told Daily NK on November 23.
“Chinese down jackets aren’t any cheaper than their secondhand Japanese counterparts, which despite being used don’t look worn out, so most people prefer this option.”
A secondhand Japanese bicycle costs roughly 24 dollars, while a used down-filled jacket costs 11 dollars. In the past, Japanese products mostly made their way to North Korea through Wonsan Port in Kangwon Province. However, products have lately started to circulate into North Korea through family members that live in Japan or via smuggling across the border.
“Carry bags for portable media players (notel) are in demand among the young demographic as well,” said a source in North Hamgyong Province.
LED brands like Toshiba and Sony are also dominating the TV market for the wealthy. North Korea domestically manufactures a 65” LED TV under the brand name “Pine Tree” that can be purchased for 1,250 USD.
Japanese-made blood pressure monitors are another popular product. When compared to monitors made in China, the Japanese brands have better functionality and are less prone to breaking. Despite their high price of around 150 USD they have been selling well across North Korea’s markets.
Polaroid cameras and sewing machines are among the other highly-sought Japanese products in North Korea, according to a separate source in Ryanggang Province who noted that, in contrast to South Korean goods, the government takes a laxer stance when it comes to cracking down on and confiscating Japanese products.
“Even though you can take photos and video with smartphones, which are increasingly common in North Korea, Polaroid cameras are still popular because of their ability to instantly produce photos,” he said.
*Translated by Brian Boyle