Display of products first made in KoreaDAEJEON ― Kim Dong-su, 45, stills takes his vitamins every morning, a habit he developed when he was young.
Only then, the pea-sized tablets in his hand were by made by Wongiso, not Centrum.
“They were so good that sometimes I secretly opened the lid to have another one when my mother wasn’t looking,” he said, recalling his younger days as a 10-year-old mischief-maker.
In the days when anything to munch on was hard to come by, the supplements that tasted like sweetened nuts were as good. Wongiso tablets were the first multivitamin brand produced in Korea. When they first became available in 1956, they were extremely popular, but their monopoly did not last. With the introduction of other multivitamin brands, both from Korea and overseas, the popularity of the Wongiso brand waned and its maker, Seoul Chemicals, went bankrupt in the mid-1980s.
For Koreans like Mr. Kim who miss the brands of their youth, there is a chance to at least see them again, although you shouldn’t eat the vitamins when the guide’s back is turned, as they have long turned stale. A familiar plastic bottle of the tiny round tablets is part of a small exhibition at the Korean Intellectual Property Office in the Daejeon Government Complex.
“Kids come in asking their parents what they are,” said Kim Myeong-hui, a guide at the exhibition. “Their parents look at them in wonder and smile at their memories.”
The vitamins are among some brands the government office is featuring in its “Made In Korea, First” exhibition. Some of the products were donated and many of them are well-used or even tattered. All were either the first major brand of a home appliance or were brands that have disappeared from today’s shops.
The items in the exhibition include a Geumseong Radio from 1959, known internationally as the Lucky Goldstar Radio (Geumseong later became LG); the first textbooks used in schools from 1948; and Samyang Ramyeon noodles from 1963.
“The years shown are the time when the products were first introduced to the public and patented,” said Ms. Kim. “Adults really enjoy this exhibition,” she added.
by Lee Min-a
1) Hi-ti (1966)
Hi-ti was the first Korean power detergent, allowing housewives to do laundry without having to scrub hard with laundry soap.
2) Geumseong Radio (1959)
Geumseong, or Lucky Goldstar, the former name for LG, was the first Korean-made radio released in August, 1959. The radio dial was marked in big, bold numbers so that even the elderly could operate it without needing reading glasses.
3) Wongiso (1956)
This brand produced the first Korean-made multi-vitamins under the advertisement catchline, “The vitamins for the millions.” The brand was once a symbol of an abundant home that could afford supplements at a time when many people lacked the funds to even buy food. Recently, Seoul Pharmaceutical Industry announced it had bought the brand from the original company (Seoul Pharmaceutical) and planned to start producing them again. They will not be for sale to South Korean customers but will be sent to children in North Korea, according to Yonhap reports.
4) Lee Myung-rae Goyak (1906)
The translation of the name for this black ointment might tell the truth. Goyak (which means “wretched” in Korean) doesn’t smell good but does a fantastic job on skin diseases. Particularly effective for removing abscesses, the medication on a paper patch was a successful invention by herbalist Lee Myung-rae, who started “curing people miraculously.” After his death, a son-in-law continued his work and, in 1952, opened the “Myung-rae Hanuiwon” or “Myung-rae Herbal Pharmacy” to sell the product. The patches are not commonly used anymore but the pharmacy is still in the alley behind the Jonggeundang building in Chungjeongno, central Seoul.
5) Lucky Toothpaste (1954)
Poorer Koreans no longer had to use salt to clean their teeth after Lucky Toothpaste was released. Just three years after its introduction, it beat sales of imported Colgate toothpaste.
6) Saempyo Soy Sauce (1954)
When Saempyo Soy Sauce first came out on the market, housewives were doubtful of using it in their recipes as they were accustomed to making their own sauce from fermented soybeans. But the ready-made soy sauce soon became a big hit because of its convenience. The familiar commercial for the sauce had the following lyrics: “You won’t know by looking at it, you won’t know by hearing about it, you’ll only know once you taste it.”
7) Gas Whal Myung Su (1910)
To relieve stomach upsets or indigestion, a bottle of Gas Whal Myung Su was once the first choice. Translated as “water that brings life,” the brand is so well known it is used as a synonym for digestive medicines.
Although the medicine was only patented in 1910, it was first introduced to Korea more than 100 years ago during the Joseon Dynasty by the king’s secretary, Min Byung-ho, and is still selling, making Korea’s oldest brand name.
The medicine is a mixture of a traditional herbs and Western drugs and is bottled ready to drink. That was a sensational idea at a time when medicines were decocted at home from items dispensed by pharmacists.
Mr. Min’s son established Dongwha Pharmaceutical, the medicine’s current maker.
8) Black galoshes (1950s)
The first rubber slip-ons were introduced in the 1930s, but it was not until the 1950s that the price of these boots came down and they became commonly worn. The first pair was worn by King Sunjong, who preferred them to traditional shoes made from silk or wood because they were impervious to water.
To protect their precious footwear from wearing out, some people took them off and carried them while they walked. The best-known brands were “Jinjja pyo” (Real brand) and “Tire pyo” (tire brand).
9) ABC Pomade (1951)
This was the first must-have hair product for any Korean man who wanted to look stylish. The ABC Pomade (pronounced Po-ma-deu in Korean) was a mixture of mineral oil and hair wax, an invention from Taepyeongyang, now known as Amorepacific.
10) Government authorized textbooks (1948)
The South Korean government published its first textbooks for public schools in 1948, just after the Republic of Korea was founded. Those in the exhibition are a math book and a Korean language book for fifth graders. Chinese characters were used in many of the texts. A passage about the meaning of spring explains that it officially starts from February 5, according to the Lunar calendar year.