Organized Panel Session

2 - Restoring the Global of Vinalon, Juche Fiber’s Hidden Story

Friday, March 23
10:30 AM - 12:30 PM
Location: Madison A, Mezzanine Level

This paper aims to restore the global thread of the so-called “Juche fiber,” vinalon, in North Korea. Vinalon is a synthetic fiber, produced from polyvinyl alcohol. North Korea succeeded in the industrial production of vinalon in 1961. Vinalon itself was developed by a Korean scientist Ri Sung-Gi in 1939 during the Japanese colonial era, and the construction of the Vinalon Factory was completed by North Koreans using their own resources and manpower. Particularly, vinalon uses hard coal (anthracite) and limestone, which are abundant in North Korea, as the main raw materials. For these reasons, North Korea was proud of the industrialization of vinalon, eventually giving it the title of “Juche (self-reliance) fiber.”   

As North Korea emphasized solely the self-reliant aspect of vinalon, the global quality and history surrounding vinalon was effaced from the North Korean official narrative. Considering the nature of technology, however, it is impossible to think of vinalon’s industrial production apart from technological exchanges with advanced countries. In fact, allied socialist nations played a significant role in the rebuilding of facilities and infrastructure during the postwar reconstruction period in North Korea, incorporating it into a global circuit of socialism in the 1950s. This paper attempts to draw map of the technology related to the manufacturing process of vinalon. In so doing, I will examine how the global circuit of technology worked with regard to vinalon from the colonial period to the 1960s, and explore its relation to the world chemical industry. 

Eunsung Cho

Columbia University, New York


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2 - Restoring the Global of Vinalon, Juche Fiber’s Hidden Story

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