Condoms a Popular Gift Item in North Korea, Where They Are Banned as ‘Indecent’

korea-market-081617.jpg A North Korean farmer pulls her daughter in a cart on the way to a weekly market in a file photo.
Thomas Gutschker/DPA

Condoms are in increasingly high demand in North Korea, which bans most forms of birth control, as a gift item brought back by business executives returning from China, sources in the politically isolated country say.

Widely available in other countries around the world, condoms are prohibited for manufacture or sale in North Korea, and are blocked from entry at customs posts, a Chinese-North Korean merchant who travels between China and Pyongyang told RFA’s Korean Service.

“Condoms are very popular with both men and women in North Korea,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “North Korean officials bring them back home when returning from business trips in China.”

“Traders like us run a high risk if we bring condoms into the country for sale, though,” he added.

“There is a high demand for condoms in North Korea, so we could make a lot of money, but they are officially considered ‘indecent items,’ so the North Korean customs people won’t let them in,” he said.

Also speaking to RFA, a Chinese businessman living in Pyongyang said that widespread prostitution in North Korea has made the use of condoms even more necessary than before.

“North Korean executives are aware of this reality, but the North Korean government insists there is no prostitution in the country,” the source said, also speaking on condition he not be named.

North Korean national leader Kim Jong Un has strongly encouraged a higher birthrate in the country “so that it will have more socialist workers,” the source said, adding, “So there is no place for condoms.”

“Many North Korean executives feel that condoms need to be made available to North Koreans for birth control and to prevent sexually transmitted diseases.”

“Someone should raise this issue with Kim Jong Un to get his approval, but no one wants to take this on for fear of being killed over such a sensitive issue,” the source said.

Most married couples now deliberately have only one child because of the high costs of education and child rearing, sources told RFA in earlier reports, and North Korean authorities have issued directives banning medical professionals from performing birth control procedures and abortions in an effort to reverse the country’s falling birth rate.

Reported by Joonho Kim for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Leejin Jun. Written in English by Richard Finney.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.