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Korea's First Postage Stamps

Korea's First Postage Stamps
Korea's first postage stamps in 5, 10, 25, 50 and
100 mun denominations were printed in Japan.

In an effort to modernize its expensive, unreliable and inefficient system of postal delivery, the Korean Postal Bureau was established on April 22, 1884 with Hong Yong-sik as the first postmaster-general. With the guidance of German and Austrian advisors, 5, 10, 25, 50 and 100 mun stamps were ordered from Japan and on Nov. 18, 1884 the first post offices were opened at Chemulpo and Seoul.

Illustration from early stamp album
Korea's first stamps were depicted in the International
Illustrated Stamp Album
published circa 1895.

Only the five and ten mun denominations were actually sold for postal use before a failed coup resulted in the murder of the head of the postal service, the looting of the post office and the suspension of its services. Political pressure from the Chinese and the Korean emperor's objection to the expense to his treasury of the new service are offered as explanations for the abandonment of plans for a modern postal service for more than a decade.

An American naval officer bought large quantities of unsold stamps from unidenitified (and probably unofficial) sources and sold them on the philatelic market in the United States. When additional supplies of newly printed stamps arrived from Japan the Korean Government sold them to a German trading company, E. Meyers & Co. Presumably the 1 300 000 stamps they purchased were also sold to stamp collectors.

Illustration from early stamp album
Ten stamps from a set of twelve issued in 1983 and 1984 to coincide with the PhilaKorea'84.

The centenary of the Korean Postal Bureau was marked by a commemorative issue that was released to coincide with the PhilaKorea'84 stamp exhibition in Seoul on October 22-31, 1984.


Neff, Robert. "Korea's first modern postal service started in 1884." The Korea Times.
     21 Nov. 2011, n.p. Web. 29 Dec. 2012.

"New Issues and Varieties." Stanley Gibbons Monthly Journal. 28 Feb. 1899, 128-129.
     Gibbons Stamp Monthly Archive Edition 1890-2009. CD.

Kloetzel, James E. ed. "Korea." Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue.
     Sidney, Ohio: Scott Publishing, 2008. Print.

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