North and South Korean Issues During the Korean War: Ideological Conflict

Science / Archives

Much has been written on the logistics, causes, and effects of the Korean War (25 June 1950 – 27 July 1953). Charles Armstrong was correct to assert that the Cold War was a campaign of propaganda and psychological warfare,1 with the Korean War being no exception. It was not just a physical conflict, it was also an ideological war between two leaders; Syngman Rhee’s authoritarian right-wing South Korea, and Kim Il-sung’s equally authoritarian communist North Korea. The aim of the war, on both sides, was to unify Korea under one leader and ideology. To support this ideological conflict, both Koreas produced vast quantities of emotive propaganda to convey political and ideological messages, e.g. posters, leaflets, and film.

The lack of scholarship utilising Korean postage stamps,3 insofar as they relate to research on Korean identity, art, and propaganda shows just how underused they are as a resource. Many research opportunities remain to be explored. Nevertheless, postage stamps are an important source because their secondary function, after the payment of postage, is the expression of national identity.

Stamps present political messages for internal and external consumption.4 Furthermore, stamps are an important source because political iconography present on stamps is a form of everyday nationalism,5 showing contemporary state views and collective identity on certain topics. This is especially true during times of conflict and hardship. Postal history demonstrates these wartime issues were intended as propaganda for consumption rather than as collectors’ items, although they certainly became such in subsequent years.

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London Philatelist
This article by KSS member David Hall was originally published in the London Philatelist (LP1477, July-August 2020, pages 290-297), the magazine of the Royal Philatelic Society London.
David Hall
MA History and Korean student at SOAS. Collecting interests are North Korea 1945-present. Undergraduate dissertation written on North Korean postage stamps, 1948-1970.

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