North Korea’s Interpretation in 1959 of the Korean War

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On 25 June, 1950, the DPRK invaded the Republic of Korea (South Korea) in a war for the unification of the nation. Due to immediate United Nations military action this invasion was unsuccessful. An armistice agreement was signed between the UN forces and the forces of the DPRK and the People’s Republic of China on 27 July, 1953 at the border village of Panmun-jŏm, effectively ending the war. No treaty of peace was signed then or since that time. On 25 June, 1959, the DPRK government issued four stamps which focussed on the goals of national unification and the removal of UN (mostly American) troops from the ROK. These stamps were in the values of 10 chŏn, 20 chŏn (two issues), and 70 chŏn.

KSC149: “25 June The Day of Fighting for the Removal of American Troops from South Chosŏn”

The 10 chŏn issue is a very simple, plain design. The stamp has an outer white frame and an inner blue frame which surrounds the depiction of the building in Panmun-jŏm where the armistice agreement was signed. A staggered, two-line slogan is given at the top, which reads ‘6.25 남조선으로부터 / 미군 철거를 위한 투쟁의 날’ (25 June The Day of Fighting for the Removal of American Troops from South Chosŏn). The value of the stamp is given in the lower right-hand corner, and in the lower left-hand corner there is the phrase ‘조선우표’ (Korean postage). In the upper right-hand corner of the inset design the name of the village of Panmun-jŏm is given. In the upper-left hand corner of the design a dove of peace is clearly seen, and there is one or possibly two other doves which are obscured.

KSC149: same stamp, with 1960 COREA or CORREE cancellation

The DPRK Government chose to reinterpret the date of the invasion of south Korea as a national day for the removal of American troops from the ROK. The depiction of the building where the armistice was signed is used as a symbol of peace, an idea which is reinforced by the display of a ‘dove’ – a traditional peace symbol. The fact that the date is actually the date of the northern invasion of the south is ignored, and no direct reference is made to the unification of the nation. ‘Unity’ is indicated by the use of the name ‘South Chosŏn’ for south Korea which refers to itself as ‘Han’guk’; ‘Chosŏn’ is the name north Korea uses to refer to itself.

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The 1959 'Peaceful Reunification of Korea' stamps
The stamps shown here are from the collections of Yi-Fu Chen (unused stamps) and Yong Yi (cancelled stamp). The 1959 stamps have become part of what is almost like an informal series of articles (see here, here and here).

3 thoughts on “North Korea’s Interpretation in 1959 of the Korean War

  1. Han 韓 한 / Choson 朝鮮 조선/ Koryo 高麗 고려 all represent the land, people and country of what we called it “KOREA” in English today.
    From 918 – 1910 AD, there was a unified country, firstly called Koryo, later called Choson, in Korean peninsula, and from 1910-1945, this country was colonized by Japan, but still under the governance of only one political authority. When World War II ended, Korean people originally expected to rebuild an unified and independent country, however, they soon realized that their lands were separated into 2 parts and controlled by non-Koreans. People in North Korea always think it was because of the ambition of US to control Asia that makes their country being separated.
    Jun 25 – Jul 27 is the Month of flighting for anti-US and the commemorative activities in DPRK persist until today, It has become a tradition in North Korea, and many stamps are issued (although not every year)for it. In 2018, because the tension between US and North Korea were eased after two leaders’ meeting, the anti-US activities in North Korea was suspended and the originally ready-to-issue stamps were cancelled and became unissued.

  2. To be able to erase at least one of the question marks in the article: Yes, the plants to be recognized in the left lower edge of the background of KSC 150 belong to steel works. These are blast furnaces, recognizable by the characteristic inclined furncae lift. To rebuild industry after Korean war, and to gain economical self-sufficiency (e.g. on the field of steel production) North Korea made tremendous efforts. In 1954 only one one of three blast furnaces was ready for production. So the start-up of the second blast furnace at Hwanghae ironworks at 5/14/1958 was an act of national importance – btw without help of foreign specialists, has been communicated. This may be reflected by the stamp, too. (compare Michel 146). North Korea issued at least 50 stamps concerning the topic hot iron/steel production since 1954.

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