Vinylon, also known as Vinalon, is a synthetic fiber produced from polyvinyl alcohol, using anthracite and limestone as raw materials. Vinylon was first developed in Japan in 1939 by Ichiro Sakurada, Ri Sung Gi, and H. Kawakami. Production of this fiber was delayed for World War II. The fiber was largely ignored in Korea until Ri defected to North Korea in 1950. Trial production began in 1954 and in 1961 the massive February 8 Vinylon Complex was built in Hamhung. Vinylon's widespread usage in North Korea is often pointed to as an example of a success of the juche philosophy, and it is known as the juche fiber.
While Hamhung remains a major production centre for vinylon; in 1998, a vinylon factory was opened up in South Pyongan. In early 2010, Kim Jong-il himself attended a mass rally at the February 8 Vinylon Complex in Hamhung to celebrate its reopening after 16 years of inactivity. While Kim was often seen at political rallies or military parades, this was the first documented time he has ever attended an industrial mass rally, said an anonymous South Korean security official. There is speculation that the Hamhung plant is manufacturing unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine, a specialized rocket fuel that is used in North Korean long-range missiles.
Vinylon has become the national fiber of North Korea and is used for the majority of textiles, outstripping fiber such as cotton or nylon, which are produced only in small amounts in North Korea. Other than clothing, it is also used for shoes, ropes, and quilt wadding.
Vinylon is resistant to heat and chemicals but has several disadvantages, being stiff, having a relatively high manufacturing cost, and being difficult to dye.
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