'Vinalon', the North's proud invention

    'Vinal' was developed for the first time by Dr. Lee Seung-ki, widely reputed to be North Korea's top scientist, at Takatsuki chemical research institute using limestone and anthracite coal as raw materials in October, 1939. These were said to be the second artificial textiles ever, developed two years later than the Dupont Nylon developed by Carrothers.

    "Vinal" is a textile made from polyvinyl alchohol (PVA) produced with anthracite and limestone. Though it is durable, and resistant to heat and chemicals, it is unsuitable as a quality textile because it is also dye-proof and stiff, compared to the durable and versatile nylon.

    [Comparison of vinal with nylon]




    Raw material


    Limestone and anthracite


    Very flexible

    Polyvinyl alcohol
    Durable and stiff


    Dyes well, Good texture
    Low heat-tolerance

    High heat-and-chemical-tolerance

    Production value

    Similar in chemical structure to silk and highlighted as a high-priced substitute for silk in the sixties and seventies

    Not well-received worldwide due to high production cost


    Under the auspices of Kim Il-sung for research by Dr. 'Lee Seung-ki' who defected to the North in July 1950, trial products were released in 1954 at the Chungsoo chemical factory (Sakju, N. Pyong-an). The North has its mass production system with the construction of the 'Feb. 8th vinalon factory'(Hamheung, S. Hamkyung) with the capacity to produce annually 10,000 tons vinalon textiles.

      * The South succeeded in producing its first nylon product in 1963, dubbed the 'Korean nylon' (at Taeku, annual production rate of 900 tons).

    But Dr. Yeo Kyung-koo (nephew of Yeo Un-hyung), who was one of the two giants of chemistry in North Korea when the "2.8 vinal factory' was under construction, protested saying that the "vinal industry will not guarantee a future for light industry," and emphasized the necessity of building a nylon factory. Later, he was subjected to ideological struggle by Kim Il-sung and finally killed himself in 1977.

    In this way, the reason the North clung to vinalon production and ignored the world trend is that raw materials like limestone and anthracite are abundant in the North and that vinalon, a product developed with their own resources, became useful for publicizing the Juche ideology.

    Through the production of vinalon, the North became the world's only country to use vinalon, but the textile industry has fallen behind other countries because its products are more expensive to produce but inferior in quality.