The 1940 Korean Christmas and New Year Seal: Last Year of Dr. Hall’s Seals in Korea


From a collector’s standpoint, the 1940 issued seal is very simple. For the officially issued 1940 seal there is only one design, one type of booklet with 5 panes of 10 (5 x 2), one type of sheet of 25 (5 x 5) and two postcards designs. As with the 1939 issues, the postcards are extremely rare. 

While the 1940 issued seal program was not complex, there was a lot of drama behind its actual issue, and it would be the last year of seals sponsored by Dr. Hall in Korea. The 1940 “unissued” seal was discussed previously in an article on the KSS website and information about the this “unissued” seal will be updated in more detail at a later date.

Because of the tensions of WWII and Japanese occupation of Korea, foreigners were harassed repeatedly during the late 1930’s. Even with the great work done to combat tuberculosis by Dr Hall, a Canadian, was charged and convicted by the Japanese in 1940 as spy for the British government. He was forced to leave Korea, and that ended the seal program for the time being in Korea. The story of Dr. Hall’s trial and the redesign of the 1940 seal are told by Dr. Hall in his autobiography “With Stethoscope in Asia, Korea”. Dr. Hall and his family moved to India and he also started up a TB seal program for that country.

The Christmas and New Year/TB seal program in Korea would not start again until 1949. This was a different organization than Dr. Hall’s, and was known as the Tuberculosis Association and The Christian Doctors Association. The TB seal program does continue to this day in Korea.

Two Girls in Front of Gate
The design of the 1940 seal shows two children in front of a gate. The design was by Elizabeth Keith, although she refused to sign the final design of the modified sheets, as the Japanese had rejected her first design. This was supposedly because, in the first design, the mountains in the background were over the height limit for photographs and pictures in Korea as designated by the Japanese. Also the “foreign dates 1940-1941” were not acceptable to the Japanese. Dr. Hall added a gate and changed the dates to the “ninth year”, and this design was then accepted by the Japanese. See figure 1 and figure 2 for both designs.

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In 2013 the Korean Christmas seal society released a souvenir sheet celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the issuance of the Christmas seals in Korea. The souvenir sheet depicted what the committee considered the “best 10” seals. See figure 7 for an image of this souvenir sheet.

Fig. 7: 2013 Christmas seal sheet showing historical seals including the (original) 1940 seal.

Interestingly, for one of the top ten, they chose the rare 1940 unissued design that the Japanese would not approve without the gate, instead of the issued design with the gate.


4 thoughts on “The 1940 Korean Christmas and New Year Seal: Last Year of Dr. Hall’s Seals in Korea

  1. Hi Ivo, interesting on what this might be. It differs from what Stephen Hasegawa says in his catalogue of 2006. For example, the one in his catalogue doesn’t have the third little girl in the background. He gives it the number WB7 and valued it at $2000 back in 2006 and said there were only two known. This would be very valuable for someone who collects woodblock printing and/or artwork from Elizabeth Keith.

  2. Here is the WB7 listing. And you are right, no girl/woman in between the two main figures:

    In other words: one might conclude there is at least one extra woodblock version, which could be numbered WB7b or something like it.

  3. Hi Ivo, another collector I know has found another one of these woodblock prints with the third woman and baby, so now we know there are 2 known of the small print with two women, and 2 known with the three women. This print with three women is larger than the one with two women and the dimensions of this larger print with the three women is 208 mm x 287 mm for the paper size and the printed area itself is 170 mm x 240 mm.

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