North Korean postal history during the Korean War 1950-1953 (I)

North Korea

This article was originally published in The London Philatelist, Volume 123 Issue 1416 in June 2014. It is reprinted here with permission of the author, Anthony Bard, who besides being a member of the RPSL is also a member of the KSS. He is well-known for his highly specialized North Korea collection. The article is published on the KSS website in three parts. This is part I. 

This article attempts to detail the postal operations within the areas under North Korean control from the beginning of 1950 to the end of 1953, a period dominated by the Korean War (25 June 1950 to 27 July 1953).

Figure 1. Administrative Divisions of North Korea 1950.

Historical Background
North Korea was created in August 1945 after the post-WW2 division of Japanese Korea at the 38th Parallel. The country was divided into Soviet (North) and American (South) zones. In 1948 the North declared its independence as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), with its capital at Pyongyang, while the South became the Republic of Korea (ROK) with its government based at Seoul. Soviet troops withdrew from North Korea at the end of 1948, leaving behind a significant number of military and political advisers.

War broke out on 25 June 1950, and within weeks North Korea had occupied 90% of South Korean territory. By mid-September the combined ROK and United Nations coalition forces had counter-attacked and recaptured Seoul; a month later Pyongyang fell. Having crossed the 38th Parallel, UN and ROK forces advanced rapidly, reaching the border with the People’s Republic of China. This perceived threat to the PRC prompted the creation of the Chinese People’s Volunteer (CPV) forces. The CPV crossed into North Korea in October, repulsed the UN advance, and by April 1951 had driven UN forces south of the 38th Parallel, recovered Pyongyang and reoccupied and abandoned Seoul.

Over the next two years the opposing forces fought to a stalemate, eventually concluding an armistice on 27 July 1953. Only small amounts of territory either side of the 38th Parallel actually changed hands.

Figure 2. Territorial changes during the Korean War.

Philatelic Background and Postal Rates
Japanese stamps in use in North Korea at the time of liberation continued to be valid for postage until the introduction of North Korean postage stamps on 16 March 1946.

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Anthony Bard
I collect North and South Korean Postal History from 1945, focusing on the Korean War and the countries involved in the conflict and post-Armistice commissions. I live in London.

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