The Revenue Stamps of Seoul City (part 3 of 3)

Revenue stamps

(Part 3 of 3) 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. 

5. Second Won series localized for neighbourhoods

Some of these values were created for neighbourhoods only. While the previous series were always used in the entire city with this series something new was introduced at the end of the 1980s: stamps further “localized” for individual neighbourhoods within Seoul. This means that stamps were overprinted with a recognizable name for a specific area within the city limits. This was done to make accounting much easier (and probably to combat corruption as well…) and lead to yet another interesting feature: not simply overprinted stamps but even values uniquely used at the neighbourhoods’ level. As late as perhaps 2007 the last new values in these series were introduced.

The values of 150, 400, 1300 and 1500 won were only used in neighbourhoods and because stamps used in the neighbourhoods were overprinted with the name of a specific area this means these four values should exist only in overprinted form. Oddly enough this is also true for the 350 won stamp: as Joe Ross mentioned in the Cal-Rev’r (March 2011) the 350 won stamp has never been seen without the localized overprint even though it is listed in the city-wide ordinances.

Nr. ValuePublicationColourSize
SLR2_150 150 won 2007?purple25mm x 22mm
SLR2_400 400 won1993?green25mm x 22mm
SLR2_1300 1300 won2002?(unknown)25mm x 22mm
SLR2_1500 1500 won2002?(unknown)25mm x 22mm

Note: none of these four values have been seen by collectors, meaning any information known about these stamps comes from ordinances. For instance: the colours of the 1300 and 1500 won values are listed differently by different neighbourhoods in their respective ordinances, which means that without the actual stamps surfacing not even their colour is known for sure.

Examples of locally overprinted stamps, in this case the 60 won stamp, in Korean alphabetical order:

Fig. 14: Examples of local overprints.

Just as with the general Seoul local revenue stamps it is possible to create a listing of the overprinted stamps per neighbourhood. Here are two examples:

Fig. 15: Examples from two local ordinances.

Notice the differences between the two neighbourhoods’ ordinances: not all stamps are listed in both ordinances and neither have the 3500 won stamp.

6. Reasons for new values

Many ordinances do not only show the (new) values of stamps, they also give a reason for needing such a stamp. The reason for this is simple: producing fiscal stamps comes at a cost to the central government, which immediately shows up on the books. Unlike postal stamps, which are not just used to pay for postal costs but which also communicate the image of a country and are often collected, fiscal stamps are 99% of the time used only as an alternative to cash payments.(4) The government already incurred costs creating banknotes and coins, why create more costs? This question had to be answered whenever new stamps were created.

In the case of the 3500 won stamp we know why a new value was needed: according to bylaw BA0084181 (1991) because it was cheaper to create sheets of 3500 won stamps instead of sheets of both 500 won and 1000 won stamps to create a combined 3500 won value. Apparently it saved Seoul 124 won if one 3500 won stamp was used instead of 3 stamps of 1000 won and one of 500 won.

Fig. 16: The 3500 won value was needed pretty much for one reason only: to pay for driver’s license costs, in this example a driver’s license application from 1992. From 1992 onwards in the rest of Korea special stamps were used for this purpose.

7. Meter mark revenues

Meter mark style revenues have been used locally in Seoul since at least the 1990s and are still in use today. The 60 won example shown here comes from a 1996 document. Not much is known about the types of meter marks used in the past. The Seoul Ombudsman writes about one type of machine installed at certain locations. In May 2007 four of these machines had been installed in Seoul, which could be used to print exact values directly on paperwork. By 2011 at least one of these machines, used at a slaughterhouse, was already gone because the slaughterhouse had closed. The more recent type of meter mark revenue conforms to the national standard.(5)

Fig. 17: Seoul revenue meter mark.

8. Conclusion

Usually when countries stop using revenue stamps not much is officially written about it other than a notice saying until what date people can use such stamps, but with Seoul something rather special happened: an Ombudsman report detailing amongst other things such as official seals the Seoul local revenue stamps.

What had happened was this: on August 1st 2013 a Seoul city ordinance was published (nr. 5554 of 2013.8.1) stating that all remaining revenue stamps had to be burned. This was taken quite seriously and when a year or so later some citizens decided to ask the Seoul Ombudsman to do research on how the municipality was taking care of its archival duties the Ombudsman discovered that pretty much all stamps had indeed been destroyed.

Apparently no one in the municipality had thought of saving a few sheets of all values available in 2013. A total of 7 different values could still be discovered here and there in offices around Seoul in April 2015, but that was it. Lessons have been learnt though, because according to the Ombudsman the archives in the city have been given more money to save more official documents. To be fair, when it comes to digitizing archives Korea is really at the top of the game, but that’s too late for the Seoul city revenue stamps. They are gone and it seems perhaps even KOMSCO, the government printing office, might not have all the values in their archive.

Notes

  1. Korean (local) ordinances on fiscal stamps were written using a more or less standardized structure. One of the components is almost always a phrase that translates to “the series has the following values and appearance”, after which a summary of the values is followed and something is reported about the appearance. Unfortunately, in the case of most of the ordinances, the latter sentence is usually another standard sentence which literally states “you can see the appearance of the stamps in the town hall”. This last option is of course no longer available to the modern collector.
  2. Joe Ross lists six values including a 0.5 hwan stamp. When asked about this particular stamp he replied that he made a mistake at the time and that there was no 0.5 hwan stamp.
  3. There is another “blue 100 won” stamp that resembles the blue 20 won stamp a lot, but on which two children can be seen walking hand in hand towards a building which looks a bit like the Seoul City Hall. This is a revenue stamp issued by the Seoul Provincial Board of Education in a series of 4 in 1965 and the building shown is the provincial Office of Education building.
  4. This also explains why these revenue stamps contain only Korean (or Sino-Korean) characters: they are only used in very specific situations. Even banknotes will be handled by foreigners, but these stamps rarely if ever.
  5. For examples of Korean revenue meter mark stamps, see Meter Stamp Society Quarterly Bulletin Vol. 69 Nr. 316 (Summer 2017).

Literature/sources

Pictures: most of the pictures are either from the author’s collection or Joe Ross’ collection, but some pictures are from websites, for instance eBay. I do not know who currently owns those stamps, therefore there is no name listed for those pictures.

Perforations: all perforations were measured using BuxSoft PERFOMaster 3000 software.
Catalogues/articles/documents: both the Hasegawa (2005) and Barefoot (Southeast Asia, 2007) catalogues were used. Also, Joe Ross publishes the Cal-Rev’r, see March 2011 edition for Seoul locals.

Archive files: there are many files on the NAK website (www.archives.go.kr), but for this article the following files were used in particular: BA0089254, CJA0002874, BA0089300, BA0089261, BA0089317, BA0089313, BA0084181. The Seoul Ombudsman report is dated April 2015.

The Revenue Journal / The Revenue Society
This article was published in three parts during 2018 in the Revenue Journal, the magazine of the Revenue Society (Great Britain). For more information see the website of the Revenue Society.
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Ivo Spanjersberg
KSS chairman and webmaster. I collect Korean revenue stamps. Currently living in Amsterdam.
http://www.spanjersberg.net

1 thought on “The Revenue Stamps of Seoul City (part 3 of 3)

  1. If you have lived in Korea, some of your document should have revenue stamps. I’ve looked through my documents and found 3 with revenue stamps. First is the marriage certificate from Seoul, second is the family census register, and the third is from resident register.

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