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Unjong Tea: N. Korea’s luxury beverage popular among young people

Unjong Tea, North Korea’s leading tea drink, has gained considerable popularity among young students due to the variety of products available and aggressive marketing through television advertisements. However, the high price per bottle has made many parents reluctant to buy it.

Speaking anonymously for security reasons, a Daily NK source in South Pyongan Province said on Tuesday that drinking Unjong Tea has recently become a status symbol among young students, indicating their family’s wealth. During the June 6 sports festival celebrating the 78th anniversary of the Korean Children’s Union, many children begged their parents to include Unjong Tea in their lunch boxes.

Despite their children’s requests, parents find it difficult to buy as much tea as their children want due to the high cost. A 500-milliliter bottle of Unjong Tea costs KPW 2,500.

“Because my child pestered me so much, I treated him to a bottle, but frankly, it felt like a bit of a waste because I could have bought a kilogram of corn for just a little more money,” the source said. “It felt unfair to spend enough money to feed my family a meal on a single bottle of drink.”

In North Korean markets, a kilogram of corn currently costs between KPW 2,800 and KPW 3,200, meaning that KPW 2,500 could buy 800 grams of corn, enough to feed a family of four for a meal.

Another source in the country told Daily NK that she ended up purchasing three bottles for her three children. “Three bottles was enough, but my children asked me to buy bottles for their teachers, so I had to buy six bottles,” she said. “I ended up spending KPW 15,000 – one day’s salary – on drinks.

“It was really a form of ‘kindness’ that I’ll never forget,” she added sarcastically, mocking the name of the drink, as “unjong” means “kindness or benevolence” in Korean.

Unjong Tea is a luxury that many people can’t afford

Unjong Tea was said to have been named by late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. Although North Korea’s low average temperatures make growing tea a challenge, full-scale tea production began in the 1980s on the orders of North Korea’s founder, Kim Il Sung. Kim Jong Il named the tea “Unjong” to reflect the Supreme Leader’s “beneficence,” emphasizing that his father had initiated tea production to promote the health of the people.

In February 2021, North Korea completed the Unjong Tea Factory on orders from Kim Jong Un. The factory produces various tea products, including green tea, black tea, Tieguanyin, apple and green tea, and milk tea.

But because of its cost, Unjong Tea has become a symbol of wealth that most North Koreans cannot afford amid food shortages and economic hardship.

“It costs far too much for us to feel the Supreme Leader’s benevolence,” the source said. “It’s a drink that pierces the hearts of parents who can’t even buy a single bottle.”

Daily NK works with a network of sources living in North Korea, China, and elsewhere. Their identities remain anonymous for security reasons. For more information about Daily NK’s network of reporting partners and information-gathering activities, please visit our FAQ page here.

Please send any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

Read in Korean

June 28, 2024 at 12:00PM

by DailyNK(North Korean Media)

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