Iconic Monami 153 pen celebrates its 50th year

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Iconic Monami 153 pen celebrates its 50th year

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The Monami 153 ballpoint pen, which revolutionized writing in Korea, is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Monami, a manufacturer of stationery items, printer and office supplies, and writing instruments said 3.6 billion of the 153 ballpoint pens have been sold. If all those 13.5-millimeter (0.5-inch)long pens were laid in a line, they would stretch 486,000 kilometers (301,986 miles), or roughly 12 times around the Equator.

The 153 ballpoint is the flagship product of Monami, with more than 3 million pens sold every month since its release. Its name is derived from its 1963 price of 15 won (1 cent) and the fact that it was the third product made by Monami.

Its origin can be traced Monami founder Song Sam-suk’s chance encounter with an employee of the Japan’s leading stationery supplier, Uchida Yoko, who was using a pen at the International Industry Fair in 1962. Prior to that time, Koreans had used only pens that needed to be dipped in ink, and the Japanese writing instrument seemed groundbreaking to Song. However, Monami said the auto ballpoint pen was not an instant success. Koreans were accustomed to dipping nibs in ink, and the 153’s oil-based ink often leaked, requiring the company to compensate consumers for stained the shirts.

“We constantly studied the deficiencies and improved the product,” the company said in a statement. “In order to break the stereotypes, our employees actually visited government offices, banks and corporate offices to explain the advantages of using a ballpoint pen.”

Today, the pen retails for 450 won, but the design is unchanged and it remains Monami’s No. 1 seller.


By Kim Jung-yoon [kjy@joongang.co.kr]

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