Korean Parents Shell Out $640 for Japanese Backpacks

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo

Buying school supplies can get pricey, especially if you’re a parent of an elementary student in South Korea. According to YTN, many Korean parents are paying up to 698,000 won (US $640) to purchase randoseru, Japanese leather backpacks, for their children starting elementary school.

Randoseru is derived from the Dutch word “ransel,” which translates to “backpack.” Traditionally, they’re made of firm leather and are built to last through all six years of a child’s elementary school life. Children have used these sturdy bags since 1885 when the prestigious private school Gakushin made them a school requirement.

Following the footsteps of North Face jackets, randoseru is the latest financial backbreaker for parents. Parents from even low-income households are purchasing these premium backpacks, afraid that their child might be ostracized or bullied in school.

Korean brands are also selling children’s backpacks for jaw-dropping prices. Fila Korea sells premium backpacks with printed images of Disney princesses and Marvel superheroes, with the price starting at 169,000 won ($154). Bean Pole Kids sells their latest designs for about 200,000 won (US $183) and even accepts reservations via their webpage to avoid large crowds.

2014110428080_0_1500x1500Bean Pole Kids’ coral leather backpack. Price: 155,000 won 

It’s not just backpacks that are expensive. Parents are splurging on pencil cases that cost about 80,000 won (US $73) and pens that go for more than 30,000 won (US $27).

For parents who can’t afford these expensive school supplies, there’s a workshop that teaches them how to sew backpacks and pencil cases by hand, according to MBC.

“Children nowadays are very aware of a product’s value,” said a YTN reporter. “They ask their classmates, ‘What neighborhood do you live in? What car does your father drive?’ They all know.”

One contributing factor to Korean parents’ excessive spending on their children’s schoolbags is South Korea’s low birthrate. As the number of one-child families continues to grow, the backpack market is targeting parents who wish to buy their only child the best of everything, and it’s working. Last year, children’s backpack market grew to 300 billion won, according to the Joongang Daily.



Featured image via Daimaru