Military Post in Korea in 1952

Q&A

The other day Ivo Spanjersberg shared scans of the front and back of a letter envelope which was posted from Korea to the United States at the end of 1952. Ivo asked me why a non-military person could use military post? I didn’t have an answer to this and referred the question to my colleague Dr. Dwight J. Strawn, formerly of Yonsei University, who had been in Korea well before I was, and retired long after I did.

He said that the answer was ‘very simple: Beginning at some point during the Korean War, all of the American mission agencies in Korea (and perhaps some others too–I don’t know…) were allowed to use the US military postal system. If I remember correctly, our address then was Methodist Mission, APO Box 301, San Francisco CA 96301. Our Korean address at that time was IPO Box 1182, and the International Post Office was located in 퇴계로 [T’oegye-ro], just behind the Central Post Office. I don’t remember when the APO service ended but I think it was in the mid or late 1960s.‘ I noted that at the time of the letter there would have been no American postal code (Zip Code) as this was not introduced until the early 1960s.

Front of the cover, sent through military mail in December 1952.

I have two questions for our members who are specialised in this area. First, the missionary sending the letter is with the Seventh Day Adventist Mission, an Irene Robson. Does anyone know anything about her, especially from when to when she may have been in Korea? Secondly, can anyone fill out in more detail what the use of the US military postal system was by foreign mission bodies?

Back of the cover, with the 1952 Christmas seal stuck to the back.

James H. Grayson was formerly a United Methodist missionary to Korea, 1971 – 1987. The cover is in the collection of Robert Finder.

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2 thoughts on “Military Post in Korea in 1952

  1. What is really important about this cover to collectors of Korean Christmas seals, is that it is one of only two known covers with the rare 1952 Korean Christmas seal. The other cover with a 1952 seal has already been shown on the KSS website.It was from Dr. Kerr, one of the KSS’s early members and author of the Korean Empire book. If anyone has another cover with the 1952 Christmas seal, please report it to the KSS. A more detailed article about the 1952 Christmas seal will be on the KSS website in 2020.

  2. I can explain “how” this mail may have passed through the APO system in 1952.

    The APO System is run by the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corp. is an autonomous Mail System from the U.S. Postal System, though it adapts most of its postal regulations. Mail posted on a U.S. military base (anywhere in the world), bearing the correct U.S. postage, is permitted to be used by U.S. military personnel as well as civilian contractors, both domestic and foreign. The Seventh Day Adventist, Red Cross, other U.S. religious charities, United Nations, and other N.G.O. (Non-Governmental Agencies ) – any authorized offices administering to the needs of the populous of South Korea during the USMG period.

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