North Koreans Wear Clothes Made of Stone, Report Reveals

A North Korean employee works in a textile factory in Pyongyang on April 9, 2012. Getty Images

In North Korea, an impoverished country where temperatures drop below freezing in winter, people are encouraged to wear clothes made from stone, a new report details. 

The material, known as Vinalon, was developed under North Korea’s founder Kim Il Sung to provide clothing for the country’s peasants, most of whom had a per capita income of $100 or less. But often people use the material to create fishing nets, mops, ropes, and other household goods, according to a report Wednesday by Reuters

North Korea’s vinalon is made from two of the natural resources the country has readily available: limestone and coal. It was originally designed by Korean scientist Ri Sung Gi, who had attempted to sell his idea to the South Koreans directly following the Korean War. When South Korea showed little interest in the fabric, Ri defected to the North and was welcomed as a hero who would help build the new nation with his designs.  

“To bore a hole into the heart of U.S. imperialism, I have been peering through microscopes and shaking my test tubes with determination,” Ri wrote in his memoir in 1990. 

142604036 A North Korean employee works in a textile factory in Pyongyang on April 9, 2012. Getty Images

As North Korea established itself as an emerging communist nation at the height of the Cold War, the material was used as a political tool to project an image of strength and self-reliance. Cartoons featuring the material aimed to teach children that North Korea was an economically successful country. The army was employed to build a vinalon factory at record speed. People wore coats, socks, and school uniforms made from the material.

But the country needed electricity to power the factories that made the fabric, and that proved to be the biggest pitfall. The country turned to nuclear power to help fill its energy gap. 

North Korean defectors say that very few people wear the material today, but North Korean state media still says the isolated nation produces the fabric and plans to revitalize vinalon production in the coming year. 

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