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Contraband condoms on the rise in North Korea

Demand is increasing despite contraception ban as part of efforts to increase birth rate

Contraband condoms on the rise in North Korea

Condoms are in increasingly high demand in North Korea despite being banned. (Photo by Manan Vatsyayana/AFP)   

November 22, 2017

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North Korea, which bans most forms of birth control, has seen an increasingly high demand for condoms, as they are a popular gift item brought back by businessmen returning from China, sources in the isolated country say.

Condoms are prohibited for manufacture or sale in North Korea, and are confiscated if found by customs officers, a merchant who travels frequently to China, told Radio Free Asia (RFA).

"Condoms are very popular with both men and women in North Korea," the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"North Korean officials bring them back home when returning from business trips in China."

"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.

Meanwhile, a Chinese businessman living in Pyongyang told RFA that rampant prostitution in North Korea has made the use of condoms 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.

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

He said someone needs to raise the issue with supreme leader Kim Jong-un but people are probably afraid to do so out of fear of being killed.

It might not be a good time to ask as North Korean authorities are currently looking to reverse the country’s falling birth rate.

 

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