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Koreans, Japanese reacting differently to hard times

An ad for Okamoto condoms
An ad for Okamoto condoms

Despite the plunging KOSPI stock market and sharp devaluation of the Korean won, condom sales in South Korea are surging.

Since August, reports Nikkan Gendai (Dec. 3), a major chain of convenience stores in the nation has seen demand for condoms rise by about 20 percent over the same period in 2007. Compared with sales during the January-July period of this year, that translates into a three-fold increase.

“To dispel their anxieties over the economic recession, more people are seeking pleasure through sex, and that explains the increase in condom usage,” a vendor to the convenience store chain is quoted as saying.

And is Japan experiencing a similar run on the latex market?

“Compared with sales of 470 million condoms two years ago, sales last year fell to about 440 million. We suppose the drop is tied to demographic trends,” the spokesman for condom manufacturer Sagami Rubber Industries tells the newspaper.

But then, how does he explain such a marked difference in demand between Japan and its neighbor?

“The customer base in Japan, made up of middle-aged and older men, is ‘retiring,’ so to speak, whereas more males in the 20 to 40 age group are ‘sexless’ out of habit,” says a source close to the industry. “Rather than an increase in condom usage, we’re seeing an increase in abstention from sex.

“Moreover, there is a younger segment who don’t like using condoms. The industry is going through a rough time right now.”

A spokesperson for condom maker Okamoto Co., Ltd. says in an effort to stimulate demand, the company has been engaging in a variety of PR activities, such as sponsorship of music events, car races, festivals and so on.

“So far though, we haven’t noticed any results,” he grimaces.

In terms of sex, the writer concludes, the recession’s impact on Japan may actually be graver than it is on Korea.

Source: “Daifukyo de SEX fueru Kankoku heru Nihon,” Nikkan Gendai (Dec. 3, page 6)