Reader’s Question: is this 1948 North Korean card real or not…?

Q&A

Is this card and the cancellations on it real or fake? I’m not sure if I’m qualified enough to certify this card, but as a serious DPRK collector I think this card has a 95-99% possibility to be fake. In fact, in my personal opinion, this card is totally fake: the card itself is fake, the stamp is fake, the Korean cancellation is fake, the postage due chop is fake, the Korean wording is fake. I only cannot be sure whether the Chinese cancellation is fake or not.

Reverse of card

This is how the seller described the card: “Korea 1948 Sc 11 Censored Postage Due Postcard Cover Pyongyang to China – The postcard was posted at Pyongyang, Korea on 18-Sept-1948 and arrived at Andong, China on the border between Korea and China on 20-Sept-1848. As it just underwent the first large scale battle during China Civil War between the government and the Communist in Northeastern China, so it was hold at Andong owing to the block of the mailing route Peiping, the destination of the postcard.

Picture side of card

Therefore I’d like to discuss this card with other DPRK experts. The item just sold on eBay for USD$510! Someone thought it deserved such a high price. Perhaps the buyer is also a KSS member, in which case I’d like to hear his opinion too.

Enlarged parts
The following are enlarged from the photo as shown in the listing on Ebay:

If I am right, I think these types of fake will make DPRK stamp market more troublesome and it will only inspire more forgerers. But is it a forgery or perhaps a genuine item, and if so, what makes you think that?

This combined image was also part of the listing.

What do our DPRK experts think: real or fake?

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14 thoughts on “Reader’s Question: is this 1948 North Korean card real or not…?

  1. No question that this is a fake! Firstly as Yi Fu points out, the stamp is a ‘reprint.’ Additionally, the cancellation and Korean chop are also completely bogus. As far as the Chinese cancels are concerned, they look too crisp to be real. There are similarly dated postcards to China ‘prepaid’ with 5 won flag stamps, which have a similar ‘smell’ to the one shown. All I can say is, that if the item was genuine, then the price would have been much, much higher than that paid. Unfortunately the buyer has actually paid about one humdred times this postcard’s value.

  2. I agree with Chen Yi-Fu and Tony Bard, this is a fake. There are a few things that lead me to say this aside from what has already been mentioned;

    1) I have looked through my 조선엽서봉투목록 (평양: 조선우표사, 1999) [Korean Postal Stationary and Maxicard Catalogue (Pyongyang: Korea Stamp Corporation, 1999)], and have not found this postcard listed.

    2) The style of the postcard is off. On the image side, ‘Taedong Gate’ is written in English rather than in Hangul ‘대동문’ or Hanja ‘大同門’ which is immediately suspicious for a postcard supposedly issued in North Korea around 1948. On the text side there are two things I find suspect. First, at the top the Korean text reads ‘엽서’, however according to my catalogue, North Korean postcards should read ‘우편엽서’ at the top. Second, there is no printed text for the sender/recipients’ details.

    3) The general condition of the postcard also raises my suspicions. There are no creases or signs of wear/age on the postcard. Also, there are no signs of aging around the edges of the postage stamp itself where it has been attached to the postcard. One last observation is that the handwritten text looks far too neat and well written, and there is nothing handwritten in Hangul. Overall, the postcard just seems far too pristine to be genuine!

  3. Too many issues worth discussing in this “interesting” card so I quoted this question.
    Let’s discuss them one by one.
    1. This was a postage due postcard, and the “postage due” chop (欠T資)was a Chinese chop. However, since this card was sent from NK to China, and one NK stamp was applied, so why was it recognized as “postage due” in China?
    2. Yes, as David mentioned, this card was something strange, the front side of this card was the image of Taedong Gate,
    however, “Taedong Gate” is a very modern South Korean style English description. If this card was an old Japanese-colonial-era card, it should be written in both Japanese and English (or maybe French), and in Japanese English it should be written as “DaiDo Mon”. If this card was an early North Korean card, it should be written in Russian (and Korean) instead of English.
    3. the back side of this card only had two Korean words 엽서, which did mean postcard, however, again, if this was an old-Japanese-colonial-era card, it should be written as 郵便はがき in Japanese or CARTE POSTALE in French. And if this was an early Korean card, both North and South Korean postcard should show 우편엽서, even stampless regular postcard was the same. I never saw any card showing 엽서 only.

  4. As far as I can read it, it says 메일확인. I am sure about the 확인, which means “to check”. So, a censor chop. I am also sure about the 메. The problem is the partially missing second syllable. If that syllable is 일, then it reads 메일. However, that means nothing in Korean. Well, okay, it does, but only in South Korea and only these days: it is the hangulization of the English word “mail” (“mail” as in Gmail for instance, but written in hangul). But I don’t think that they would have used that term in North Korea and China in 1948… But the check/censor part (확인) is definitely there in the second half of the cachet.

  5. As Ivo said, 메일 read as mae-il, which is modern Korean saying of “mail”, (direct English verbal translation) 확인 read as hwak-in, means “to check” or “to confirm”.
    I have googled “메일확인” online and get an interesting answer. If you have a G-mail account, you can find these 4 words when you read your mails. It means your mails have been read (by yourself).
    So…. the another clue that this card is a fake. Modern internet world word usage appears on it.

  6. Talking about Google, I just realized something else might be going on here. Let’s assume the forgerer is Chinese speaking. I can’t judge it, but if the Chinese text on the card is grammatically etc. correct then that would probably be the case. What if that Chinese forgerer can’t speak/read/etc. Korean? For the (date) cancellation he could simply falsify a known cancellation. But what about a censor cachet? Maybe he knew one was needed at the time, or he wanted to have one to add extra value. Who knows? So he goes to some online dictionary.

    The effects when translating can be quite funny. If you use Google Translate for instance, just the addition of a new line after a word can be all the difference. See here: if you type mail and verification on two lines you get the (individually correct) Korean terms of 우편 and 확인, but if you don’t use a new line, the word “mail” gets hangulized as “메일” but is not actually translated. And that could explain why this strange term of 메일확인 was used.

    By the way, both 우편확인 and 메일확인 would have been wrong, I think the correct Korean term for “postal censorship” is 우편검열.

  7. I’d like to add some background information of this card (since all are in Chinese).
    The right half of this card was the receiver’s information. It was sent to someone (maybe a librarian) in the library of TsingHua University, Peiping (current Beijing) China.
    The left half was the content, the sender, who was also a Chinese, said : how’s everything in Peiping, I was in Pyongyang and everything was fine… blah blah blah….. NO SENDER’S ADDRESS
    This card was sent from Pyongyang, through Andong (Northeastern China, opposite to Sinuiju DPRK), to Peiping. However, since at that time there was a civil war in Northeastern China, the postal route was blocked. Please be reminded that this card could not be returned back to sender since sender’s address was not available.

  8. From the chops it is not obviously fake, they are all logical (there would have been postage due, the Andong chop looks healthy, I don’t know about the Pyongyang chop, the mail route to Peiping probably was closed, etc.) but from the clarity of all the chops I immediately concluded that it was a fake – it probably is, but the stamp looks original! It conforms to all 6 Dr Maeda’s criteria (Dr Maeda is mistaken in his No.7, the line extends to the outer frame in both originals and reprints, his example is a printing exception). It might be possible to doctor a reprint by the addition of the extra line, but the foot of the ‘2’ in the top line doesn’t extend to the next word, as in the reprint, and the total absence of shading on the wall underneath the man’s arm is not consistent with a reprint. Is it possible to produce a copy by photocopying an original? Who was the seller of this item? From Peking?

  9. I don’t think it is possible (yet…) to just create a photocopy which would fool a serious stamp collector, but I am very sure that with a bit of practice one can create near-perfect (at least perfect enough) fake early period North Korean stamps. Getting hold of the correct (probably even original/real) paper to print on should not be a problem. And you don’t need much of it, so once you get hold of such paper you’re done for quite a few copies.

    Next is the print itself. Here a forgerer would have an easy time because the designs are rather simple and without any safety features, but also that these early North Korean stamps were always (with just a few exceptions) printed in one colour. With a high quality scan and some work in Photoshop you could create an image exactly like the original.

    Next you need to decide to either really create an actual printing using the printing technique as per the original, or alternatively you have to find a modern printing system which will create a print that looks “just like the real thing” because it uses for instance real/proper ink. The first option will be the most original looking, but also more expensive. Such services are widely available in China these days. The second option is to go for the modern options, which are technically widely available everywhere.

    I would actually opt for the second option: requires more experimentation at first, but once you get the right result you can use it again and again for the same era of DPRK stamps. It even comes with a bonus: the same knowledge/experience could create different options as well. (“Hey, psst, I’ve got a complete set of South Korean 1940s proofs. Only $100.000 for the lot, only for you, only today.”)

    The cachets should be easy, I saw many shops in Korea selling handmade chops. The postcards should also not be too difficult. And they can also be “reprinted” of course, probably much easier than the stamps. Printing b/w photos on the correct type of paper is easy enough in 2020. I think the real problem is to avoid silly mistakes (typos, or historical inaccuracies) or to overdo it and make it look too good, like with this cover with its perfectly inked cachets. But with the right knowledge, what’s there technically stopping people from doing this…?

    (Edit: later today I discovered these photos on Kobay showing DPRK sheets. The edges contain more than enough paper to create fake stamps on:)

  10. Here we are discussing two issues, original vs. reprint and genuine vs. forgery. The above stamp I just mentioned in previous comment, together with the same one on that fake postcard, were both original (if genuine). However, both are forgery. It is very difficult to certify early DPRK stamps since all stamps were poorly made and no standardized criteria existed. The stamps on one same sheet can be very different in their color and printing flaws. But now we meet another difficulty: someone is making fakes. Is this an unknown variety or just a fake product?

  11. The question is, are they genuine or forged originals? If they are forged, coming from the same source, one would expect them to be based on a single genuine original, and thus be identical. It seems to me that they are not quite identical?
    They differ from Maeda’s illustration in the relative thickness of the two vertical right hand frame lines. Four copies I have seen of what I believe to be originals have an outer line significantly thicker than the inner one – but these could be from a different printing.
    My greatest reservation about their genuineness is their rather fresh condition – but then maybe he has a sheet of originals!!

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