FEATURE: Unusual tourist attraction may leave some red-faced

By Lai Hsiao-tung and Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Sat, Jul 27, 2013 - Page 4

An unusual tourist attraction is getting ready for its official opening next month and while its main theme is enticing for some, it is likely to turn some faces red.

It is the nation’s very own “Condom Tourism Factory,” in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Tamsui District (淡水).

Visitors will be able to get to know the history of prophylactic devices, watch how condoms are produced, learn about the latest safe sex tips and view various special exhibitions. There is also an interactive “do-it-yourself” station for trying on a condom and other simulations.

Located at a Taiwan Fuji Latex Co plant, the nation’s only condom manufacturer, the concept is a collaboration with the New Taipei City Government.

Founded in 1973, the company brought to Taiwan the technology of Fuji Latex Co of Japan. The factory was built in Tamsui, then in Taipei County, to produce condoms for the domestic market.

The company introduced the latest electronic pinhole examination equipment from Japan and reached a 100 percent inspection accuracy rate. A company official said prior to 1973, the majority of condoms in Taiwan derived from US aid programs, but the US condoms were unsatisfactory as the products’ dimensions were unsuitable for Asian men.

After mass production began in 1973, a Swedish aid foundation signed a contract with Taiwan Fuji Latex Co to supply condoms to India and Africa in a program organized with the WHO and the International Red Cross.

That fell through later that year when Taiwan lost its seat at the UN along with its membership of the WHO and a host of other UN agencies. As a result, the company’s Japanese partner pulled out of Taiwan.

Yu Chi-cheng (游啟政), chairman of Taiwan Fuji Latex Co, said the company developed its own brands afterwards and subsequently got export orders from other countries.

“We had export orders for the UK, France, Canada, the US and Russia, from more than 40 countries. Our record was 34.56 million condoms produced in one month, that was enough to supply Taiwan’s needs for a whole year,” Yu said.

The government’s population policy in the 1980s was “Two kids are just right,” so the company’s production followed the policy, supplying condoms to clinics, hospitals and medical centers throughout the nation starting in 1981. At that time, the company began marketing its products and condoms began to appear on the shelves of convenient stores, supermarkets and pharmacies.

“Currently, we have 65 percent of the market in Taiwan. There are more than 50 different brands of condoms and they are all made by our company,” Yu said.

However, for many years Yu has been highly critical of the government’s handling of the sector.

“Until now, the government has not paid much attention nor given any support to Taiwan’s small and medium-sized enterprises. In fact, they are rather unfriendly to these companies,” he said.

Yu lamented that as years go by, Taiwan’s society and its population makeup have changed.

“Condoms were used as a means of population control in the old days, now they are for disease prevention, but factory operating costs keep getting higher, while new laws are putting more stringent limitations on the firm,” Yu said.

Two years ago, Yu was prepared to relocate the factory to either China or Vietnam. At that time, the New Taipei City’s Economic Development Department (EDD) came to him to discuss the possibility of transforming his condom factory into a “tourism factory.”

“In the past year, government officials have been seriously pursuing this plan, with follow-up talks and providing support. I felt their enthusiasm and sincerity to get this plan off the ground,” Yu said. “Therefore, I decided to keep my roots here in Taiwan.”

According to the EDD, the Condom Tourism Factory has four different sections — “knowledge about condoms,” “the production process,” “the little love shop” and a souvenir store.

There are guided tours and displays to explain the history of and how to use condoms properly, with a tour of the production facilities and the testing laboratory.

The Condom Tourism Factory is scheduled to open on Aug. 22.