Great Leader Kim Il-sung was convinced that vinylon was the revolutionary fiber material, the answer to the textile needs for all humanity. He invested upward of $10 billion and built the SoonChun vinylon factory in PyongAnNamdo in 1989 to produce this new, revolutionary material. He called it the historic “Juche textile.”
He called it Juche, self-reliant, because the new material was made from limestone and anthracite (hard coal), natural resources abundant in North Korea. With fanfare on a historic scale the entire nation of North Korea joined in the opening ceremony of the century.
Vinylon cotton Kim Il-sung inspecting SoonChun vinylon factory, 1989
SoonChun vinylon factory, 1989
However, the historic Juche textile undertaking turned out to be a white elephant. It had been one of the ten goals of the second 7-year plan in the socialist economy development program.
The vinylon was invented by Lee Seung-gi at the Takatsuki Chemical Research Center in Japan in October, 1939. He had settled in South Korea after WWII, and followed the KPA [North Korean Army] to North Korea during the Korean War. Kim Il-sung made him the head of the Vinylon Research Center in HamHeung and built a manufacturing facility in 1961, followed by the $10 billion factory in 1984. The SoonChun factory never got on-stream due to faulty design.
In 1994 during the “Arduous March,” the HamHeung facility closed up as well due to lack of maintenance and the shortage of electricity. The factory was abandoned until 2008, when Kim Jong-il ordered its renovation. Kim Jong-il held a huge opening ceremony with 100,000 HamHeung citizens in attendance.
The SoonChun facility, the symbol of Juche textile, remained shut down other than for a minor facility for producing vinylon cotton product.
Come 2017, Kim Jong-un started to tear down the monster of an eye sore. What had been the production facility for carbide chemical has been completely demolished to make way for a phosphorous fertilizer. KCNA, the government’s official media outlet reported that a new fertilizer plant was under construction, but left out the fact that it had been the infamous SoonChun vinylon factory.
New fertilizer plant under construction in the old SoonChun vinylon factory