Australian missionary postal history shows early links with Korea

Old Korea Postcards

Abacus Auctions of Glen Waverley, Victoria, Australia in its auctions for 30 November to 1 December, 2019 displayed three Korean postcards for sale, two of which are pictoral cards. The pictoral postcards are of a ‘yŏt’ (Korean confection) seller and a view of a city gate in Sŏul, possibly the Great North Gate. The text at the bottom of these cards says ‘Presbyterian Church of Victoria Mission in Korea’. These cards became quite common from the beginning of the twentieth century as tourism increased, and as a means of depicting the nation in which Christian missions was involved.

The Australian Presbyterian mission to Korea began in 1889. At that time there was no ‘Australia’ but various colonies which became states when the Commonwealth was established in 1905. The Presbyterian missions came from the colony/state of Victoria and were based in what becomes Kyongnam Province. Pusan was the center of the mission, an important work being the Ilsin puin pyongwon (Ilsin Woman’s Hospital).

Fig 1: card sent from Seoul to Great Britain “via Siberia”. Notice the size of the font used for “KEIJO” resp. “(SEOUL)” in the cancellation.
Fig. 2

In the division of territory in 1908 by mission groups (to avoid competition), the Australians were allocated Kyongnam. Even as late as the 1970s, I know of small children in Kyongnam who thought that planes flying over head were going to Hoju (호주, Australia) and not Miguk (미국)! Australian missionaries were in Korea until the 1980s.

The text on the unillustrated card identifies the sender as from the Bishop’s Lodge Chang Kol/Seoul Corea. This is the residence of the bishop of the (High Church) Anglican mission in Korea. The address is given as ‘Chang Kol’ but this must be the modern Chŏng-dong, next to the Anglican cathedral and the Tŏksu Palace. The Anglican mission, and especially Bishop Mark Trollope used the older spelling ‘Corea’ until well into the twentieth century.

Fig. 3: view of a city gate in Sŏul, possibly the Great North Gate.
Fig. 4
Fig. 5: ‘yŏt’ (Korean confection) seller.
Fig. 6
Images provided by Abacus Auctions
The images shown in this article were kindly provided by Abacus Auctions (Australia) by request of the KSS to be used as a background to Korea-related missionary postal history. These items were part of their auction of 30 November / 1 December 2019. The original description in the auction catalogue was: “1912 usage of Japanese 4sn Postal Card with message headed “Bishop’s Lodge Chang Kol/Seoul Corea”, to GB with superb 29mm rubber ‘KEIJO/(SEOUL)/23 08 12/CHOSEN’ cds in violet, also two 1905 Presbyterian Church of Victoria/Mission to Korea PPCs ‘CITY GATE, SEOUL’ & ‘KOREAN CANDY SELLER’. Scarce trio.

Please note the KSS has no financial or legal connections with any auction house or stamp dealer/seller.


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