After ten years since the first edition of this full color(!) catalogue of North Korean stamps, the third edition was published by the Korea Stamp Corporation, Pyongyang, in 2003. Chronologically, the first edition was published early in 1993, containing up to #3277, the winners of 25th Olympic Games, issued December, 1992, and consisted of the postage stamps chapter only.
The second edition came out in later 1998 containing up to #3874, Squirrels and Hedgehogs, issued on June 15 of the same year and introduced, in addition to the postage stamps chapter, stamp booklets (B1 to B61), stampcards (SC1 to SC9), and presentation pack (P1) chapters.
The third edition, covering the period ending 2002, was put on the market some time in January or February of 2003 and records postage stamps as late as #4238, definitives issued on November 25, 2002, but failed to contain three chapters that had been introduced in the second edition, namely, stamp booklets, stampcards, and presentation packs.
This omission/discontinuation of listing actually is a substantial disservice to the collector who might use this catalogue as a reliable source of information to arrange his/her materials and, therefore, clearly is retrogression in the mind of the author. It is especially true with the booklets, the number of which now exceeds 110, and they include new products with imperforates and coverless unfolded booklet panes added in this category since the publication of the second edition. Collectors have to seek and consult each individual stamp information flyer or some form of other information when they add new, unknown materials to their collection to ascertain how and when they were issued years after actual issuance of these materials.
Also, regarding stampcards, it seems fairly strange that three varieties (SC3 to SC5), out of a total of nine cards issued, remain recorded in the postage stamp chapter as they carry something to publicize from Korea and were given stamp numbers (3546 to 3548) when they were issued in 1994… clearly a case of disharmony.
In addition to these coverage changes, major changes were made in its language. The first edition was entirely in English, while the second edition used Korean descriptions in the book title and the name of the publisher. This third edition is basically bilingual, with the book title, name of the publisher, introductory remarks from the Editorial Department, and the title and explanation of each stamp, as well as footnotes, are given both in English and Korean. This is a major improvement.
A third prominent change is the deletion of color notes from each individual description. The reason is not disclosed, but full color presentation in this catalogue probably makes the descriptions redundant.. Similar changes have been made with many full color catalogues of the world. This is possibly accelerated by the tendency of multicolor printing methods dominating our stamp world. Where polychrome printing is a common technology, recording colors seems to be unnecessary. As the single word, “multicolor,” is not very descriptive or helpful to the reader, the editors may have felt that looking at the illustration would do a better job. Given that, however, the color illustrations need to be improved. Further, there remain many instances where the color or shade means something essential, so the omission of the color description creates serious difficulties and may lead to the wrong conclusion about stamp identity. Examples are numerous in 1946-1950 and with #822-823 and #829 in 1968.
In all three editions, the editors have failed to include any notations on any of the illustrations so the reader is not able to connect the illustration to the specific stamp. Presumably, the numbers start from the left and go to the right, and from the top to the bottom, but this is merely an assumption.
Another smaller but not less important change is in connection to the prices where the US dollar has been used in the first two editions. In the third edition, it was changed from dollars to euros, but there has been no change in the figures as far as I can confirm. Is not this a factual price increase at this moment?
Before closing these general remarks, the author would suggest, throughout three editions of this catalogue, do not take every description on printing method, perforation, and its gauges, etc., too seriously. Inaccurate or incorrect presentation abounds.
Now let us enter its contents and watch out!
- Pyongyang Sceneries: #195 Square of Arch of Triumph (Mi 225; Mao Tse-Tong Square/SG N227; Arch of Triumph) and #199 Sungri (Victory) Street (Mi 229; Stalin Street/SG N231; Sungri Street) – These were not listed in the previous two editions, entirely in the first edition but, in the second edition, given a price tag being contained in the set of 5. descriptions are introduced in the present edition without illustrations.
- Tokro-Gang Hydroelectric Power Plant: #216 (Mi 254; Tokro-gang Hydro-power Station/SG N254 Tokro River Dam) – not listed in previous two editions but introduced here under the title of “Jangja-Gang Hydroelectric power Plant” while the description in the stamp design notes “Tokro-Gang.” This stamp is also without illustration.
- Hungnam Chemical Complex: #663 (Mi 694; Bongung Chemical Works in Hamneung/SG N695; Pongung Chemical Works) – One of two “Factory” stamps, it was not described in the previous editions but it was contained in the price as a set. Again, no illustration is available.
- Onpho Rest Home: #738 (Mi 764; Ju-ul/SG N765; Onpo Rest Home) – One of four “Rest Homes” stamps, it was not described in the previous editions but it was contained in the set price. The illustration needs to be added.
- Hyangdo Peak: #917 (Mi 942; Changgun Peak/SG N946; Changgun Peak) – One of four “Mt. Paektu” stamps, it was not described in the previous editions, but it was contained in the set price. The illustration needs to be added.
- Fifth Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea: #948 (Mi 973/SG MSN 975 – part0 – This is one of ten designs comprising the souvenir sheet but it has not been listed in previous editions, although the other nine designs were as-signed respective numbers #939-947. It is described as “anti-imperialist, anti-US struggle,” and it is still not illustrated.
- Struggle of the Korean Compatriots in Japan: #970 (Mi 996; Korean Compatriot in Japan/SG N995; Solidarity of Koreans in Japan) – This stamp has been omitted in previous editions and is now listed, but without an illustration.
- Conversion of Our Country into the Socialist Industrial State: #998 (Mi –/SG –) – One of 12 stamps in a series with the same name, it is not listed in the first edition at all, but it was included in the set only in the second edition.
- Film, “The Flower Girl”: #1075 (Mi 1101?/SG –) – One of four stamps in the “Cinema Art” series, it was included in the second edition and now is illustrated.
- KPRA Conducting Landing Operation at Son-bong: #1323 (Mi 1349; Soldiers Attacking/SG N1362; Revolutionary Army Landing at Ung-Gi (Son-Bong)) – Has not been listed separately, but it is included in the price list as part of a set of five designs. It is not illustrated.
- Meeting of the Great Leader, President Kim Il-Sung with He Guofeng of China: #1695-1698 (Mi A-C1714; Visit of President Kim Il Sung to People’s Republic of China/SG –) – A set of three stamps and one souvenir sheet of common design which have been entirely omitted so far. Gibbons failed to list these, too. Michel listed only the three stamps but omitted the souvenir sheet.
- Monument to the Triumphal Return to the Country: #1939 (Mi 1965; Monument to the Triumphal Return/SG N1946; Monument Marking Kim Jong Suk’s Return) – Not listed previously, there is no illustration and no reference to Kim Jong-Suk, mother of Kim Jong-Il.
- Official Goodwill Visit of the Great Leader President Kim Il-Sung to Eastern European Countries: #2487-2488 (Mi block 195-196 (2614-2620); State Visit of President Kim Il-Sung to Socialistic Countries/SG N2463-2469; Kim Il-Sung’s Visit to Eastern Europe) – A set of two sheetlets that have not been recorded at all—no numbers, no description, and no illustration, but fully introduced in this edition with illustrations.
- International Stamp Exhibition, “Philatelia ‘87”: #2754-2758 (Mi 2884-2888; 750th Anniversary of Berlin and International Stamp Exhibition PHILATELIA ’87, Cologne/SG N2734-2737, MSN 2738; ditto) – Introduced for the first time with full illustrations.
With these introductions, the blank space is reduced to Prof. Kim Bong-Han and Kyongrak Theory related two series of 11 stamps and a souvenir sheet, as well as “Unissued” 20 stamps with the following numbers:
- #532-534 (Mi 563-565; Kim Bong Han/SG N559-561; Kyongrak Biological System.
- #671-678 (MI 700-707, block of 3; Professor Kim bong Han, the Discoverer of Kyun-grak-substance in living Body/SG N701-708, MSN709; Kyongrak Biological System)
- #894, 962, 995-997, 1019-1020, 1022-1028, 1068-1071, 1112, 1258: “unissued”
Beside those vacancies related to Kyongrak and “unissued” numbers above, there is a very strange case of a new vacancy:
- 11th Asian Games, 40 jon: #2992 (Mi 3119; Emblem for Samjiyon/SG N2973; Sports-men and Games Emblem) – This has been recorded in both earlier editions, with the number assigned and prices noted as a set, but without illustration. The third edition omits the number from the title and price list. Seemingly, this 40 jon stamp, the highest value in the set of three, aims to sell Samjiyon, DPR of Korea, as 3rd Winter Asian Games venue, while the lower two values simply describe the 11th Asian Games in Beijing (see Figure 1).
We have had quite a number of stamp illustrations that were not available in the first two editions. They were suspect because of either too prominently showing the influence of the USSR over North Korea, or antagonistic designs depicting royal families and/or celebrities that contradicts the socialistic ideology of North Korea. Almost all of them are not illustrated as noted in the first section above, with a few exceptions, such as:
- Site of Xiaohaerbaling Meeting: #913 (Mi 939; Cholbaryong/SG N942; Xiaohaerbaling)
For the South Korean Revolution and National Reunification:
- #980 (Mi 1006; Battle Scene, Kim Il Sung/SG N1003; Revolutionary with Book) – both of these are not illustrated in any of the three editions.
In addition to these newly illustrated numbers and a couple of not yet illustrated ones described above, we can be astonished to find an illustration of #1b (Mi 1), green hibiscus, recorded in both the first and second editions, but not illustrated. This number has been believed to be unissued by many collectors (including the author) with partial uncertainty caused by the existence of the reprint done in green color. Now that North Korean authorities put the illustration in, does it mean that they have a real example or evidence proving its existence?
- #94 and #392 are both in the “Commemoration of the Founding of Pyongyang City” (Mi 124 and 424/SG N124 and 426) – The reason for omission is unknown, as both were illustrated in the two previous editions.
- A substantial number of sheetlets that comprise a set of stamps are issued on many occasions, but their illustrations are not included in the present edition. Though not fully, they were illustrated in previous editions. The exceptions are when such a sheetlet is the only source of stamps, i.e., no sheet of individual stamps is issued. This omission, however, is a remarkable disservice for some collectors who collect stamps by subject, such as animals, birds, flowers, etc. These thematic/topical collectors tend to pay their attention not only to the stamp designs but look for their theme in illustrations/decorations printing in the margin of the sheets or tabs. Here is the benefit of giving a full illustration of all issues. With this accomplished, the author trusts, North Korean stamps will draw more serious attention of many more collectors.
We have a number of overprinted stamps from North Korea. They can be divided into two categories as:
- early cases of validation (#17A; 1951), changing face values (#22D, 22E, 51C; 1951-1954), and a case of special presentation purpose (#323A; 1961).
- Later cases of overprint on special occasions starting in 1977 (#1647A-G, etc.) until 1984 (#2420A).
All of these stamps and sheets were introduced in the second edition being given the numbers with suffixes in capital letters. Also, footnotes about these overprints were added to each of the base stamps in both categories in the second edition.
It is noteworthy, meanwhile, that category b) were already noted in the first edition to each base stamp overprinted. However, in the third edition, all of these were deprived to the numbers allotted in the second edition (therefore, fully deleted) and only the footnotes remained with the base stamps informing the reader that such overprints exist.
(Originally from KP August 2003, Vol. 490, No. 3. Please note that many of the remarks by Taizo Maeda are still true for the 2016 edition!)