New apartment openings push demand for security devices

A recent photo of Hyesan City, Ryanggang Province. Image: Daily NK

Unification Media Group (UMG): Today we’re discussing the week’s news with reporter Kang Mi Jin. Can you start us off with the latest news?  

Kang Mi Jin (Kang): As local residents of Hyesan begin moving into their new apartments, sales of security devices and fire alarms are taking off. The source who reported this to me said that residents of the new apartments are going from market to market to buy security devices for their new homes.

Having just moved into their apartments, families are using the money they’ve saved to buy new home appliances but many are worried about these possessions being stolen.

UMG: So local residents are buying products that can help protect their possessions in their new homes. Can you tell us more?

Kang: In the 1990s, local residents suffered from economic instability, but in the 2000s many were able to escape such difficulties to some extent due to rising trade with China and smuggling activities. Since around 2010, they have been largely been able to focus more on accumulating wealth rather than being preoccupied with day-to-day financial woes.

As their lives have gradually improved, North Koreans have begun to slowly increase their ownership of possessions. They reportedly have a lot of interest in security devices that help protect their possessions from theft and other misfortunes. So there has been a spike in sales of security and fire alarms.

UMG: How much do these devices go for at the market?

Kang: The prices differ depending on the type of device. Fire alarms go for around US $3, while security alarms go for around US $13.

There’s something else that’s interesting, however. My sources say that prices of these products may differ depending on whether similar products are available in the market. Merchants seem to have understood that there’s a lot of people moving into new apartments at this time so they are importing large shipments.

UMG: What else is selling well in the markets?

Kang: I have been continuously tracking changes in North Korea’s markets over the past several years and only up until 2 or 3 years ago, there were a lot of Chinese-made toothpaste brands for sale at the markets. Recently, however, North Korean-made toothpaste brands have overtaken the Chinese ones in popularity and this seems to reflect an increasing preference for domestically-produced products.

UMG: Can you tell us more about the North Korean-made toothpastes?

Kang: There are several different kinds available. The “Pure Morning” brand produced by the Chonjindaeryun Technology Exchange Enterprise is for treating gum disease and reportedly stops gums bleeding and numbs sensitive teeth. It is also claimed to fight bad breath and ulcers, prevent tooth decay, and remove plaque.

Another brand produced by the same enterprise, “Wuiam Toothpaste,” also allegedly prevents tooth decay and bad breath.

There’s also toothpaste for kids available. Dongyang Trading Enterprise produces the “Natural Vitamin Toothpaste” that includes several kinds of plant-derived vitamins, including Vitamins A, B1 and E. The toothpaste normalizes the function of the mucous membrane in the mouth, increasing its ability to fight oral disease, while making the teeth strong and white. It removes gum sores and any areas of bleeding within 2 or 3 days, cleans the breath and prevents tooth decay.

Various types of toothpaste on offer in North Korean markets.

UMG: I also heard there’s toothpaste with aloe vera in it. What’s that for?

Kang: The “Twin Rainbow” brand with aloe vera is manufactured by the Kyungsubong Trading Enterprise. The toothpaste gets rid of bad breath and any impure elements on the teeth. With only a week’s use, it can allegedly get rid of toothache and prevent ulcers on the gums. The “Fluoride Toothpaste” made by Paekun Trading Enterprise helps recalcify tooth enamel and blocks several kinds of germ-related pigmentation. The toothpaste also includes several kinds of medicinal ingredients that make it good for treating gum disease and is considered outstanding in fighting against ulcers and tooth sensitivity.

The Nano-Silver Dongyang Toothpaste” produced by the same company uses the germ-killing elements of nano-silver particles and fluoride to remove bad breath, treat tooth decay, and remove plaque. The “Paekhak Toothpaste” produced by the Pyongyang-based Dentistry and Sanitation Product Factory prevents tooth decay and is supposedly very good at whitening. The “Paekhak Toothpaste” produced by the Sinuiju Cosmetics Factory reportedly prevents gum sores and tooth decay.

UMG: What are the prices for these products in the markets?

Kang: The Nano-Silver Toothpaste goes for 5,900 won per tube, while the Paekhak Toothpaste goes for 700 won per tube. Toothpaste can go for as low as 500 won per tube, but is generally around 3,000 won per tube. The most expensive goes for 10,000 won per tube.