By Alek Sigley, founder of Tongil Tours and postgraduate student at Kim Il Sung University.
In the stationery section of any store in Pyongyang you’ll likely find several different colourful notebook designs emblazoned with the above Mindulle (민들레; “dandelion”) logo. This is North Korea’s most prominent manufacturer of notebooks. The Mindulle factory has even been visited by Kim Jong Un in 2016 on one of his “on-the-spot-guidance” visits.
Mindulle notebooks are reportedly distributed free of charge to students in kindergarten, elementary school, high school, and university. Thus they have become a motif in North Korean propaganda, representing the benevolent “love for the younger generation” (후대사랑) of the Party and the leaders. Mindulle notebooks can also be purchased in the stationery section of stores. Tourists can sometimes find them in the Kwangbok Department Store.
When my classes at Kim Il Sung University began in April, I ended up picking up some of their notebooks for my lectures. I also discovered that they had there own shop a little bit further down Ryomyong Street from the dormitory. I also had a look at some of their other products, from notebooks for school students, sketchbooks and music notebooks.
Some of their adult notebook designs– these cost from approximately 30 to 60 cents USD:
This is what they look like inside:
Like diaries you’ll find anywhere else, these ones contain reference materials in the front, such as an address book:
Here you fill out the name (이름), mobile phone number (손전화), home phone (집전화), operator number (교환), office number (사무실전화), home address (집조수), and interestingly, email address (전자우편) too.
There’s also a timezone table:
Two above Pyongyang (which is bolded), is my hometown Perth.
Here you fill out your own personal details. Email address features again. There’s also a space for fax number and blood type.
And some also contain unit conversion tables such as those below:
Here one can convert between metric, imperial, and Korean weights and measurements.
Here are some of the notebooks for school children, these cost from around 5 to 20 cents USD each:
Some of these notebooks contain unit conversion tables, times tables, and charts with Korean characters inside the covers:
Mindulle also makes music notebooks, for working with stave notation:
Mindulle has its own specialty store in Ryomyong Street. This is just across the street from the May the 1st Stadium shop.
Mindulle sells a wide selection of its own notebooks here, together with some of its other products, such as cigarettes. In other words, it’s got something to offer the whole family, school notebooks for the children and cigarettes for the adults! It is also interesting to note that this seems to be somewhere in the area of conglomerate-type behaviour.
But in contrast to the May the 1st Stadium brand shop, which only sells its own products, this shop sells a range of goods from other brands, including many imported ones– from Chinese maotai alcohol, to (probably knock-off) Nike bags. The store’s stock really is quite eclectic– stationery, packaged food, alcohol, cigarettes, clothing… I also purchased the below eraser there:
And one of these laundry racks for $15USD:
And yes, someone in the dormitory actually thought it would be amusing to use a Stars and Stripes bedsheet.
Anyway, Mindulle might be another North Korean brand to watch out for. But before it goes worldwide, you’ll have to buy your own Mindulle products on a Tongil Tours tour!