Like most countries which at one time used revenue stamps, South Korea has a long history of using local revenue stamps. Until the 1970s these local revenue stamps were produced locally, each with a unique design per province or municipality. From 1976 onwards local revenue stamps were produced nationally (with standardized designs) by the national printing company (KOMSCO) and then “localized” by simply printing the name of a province or municipality on these stamps. However, the city of Seoul has always used its own revenue stamps with a design unique to Seoul which lasted almost unchanged for 6 decades.
Seoul is a self-governing city province (서울특별시, Seoul Special City), hierarchically equivalent to provinces such as Gyeonggi-do and Jeju-do. The city is subdivided into urban districts named “gu” (Korean: 구). Hence, Seoul has known its own form of “localization” of revenue stamps: Seoul’s city districts used to overprint the standard Seoul city revenue stamps with their own district names. That may seem like micro-management, but Seoul has more than 10 million inhabitants, while urban districts vary in population between 140,000 and 630,000 inhabitants. The districts are thus comparable to (minor) cities.
In addition to these local documentary revenue stamps for “general use” in Seoul, other revenue stamps are also known for use in the Seoul area for more specific services. For example, the provincial board of education had its own revenue stamps. These however are not part of this article.
1. Before 1945
During the Japanese occupation of Korea (1910-1945) local tax stamps were issued especially for the city of Seoul, then known as Keijō (Japanese) or Gyeongseong (Korean). Of these stamps little is known. The values of these stamps were listed in yen (100 sen = 1 yen).