Flags of Countries Participating in the Korean War: Flag Errors

South Korea

In 1951 Korea issued a series of 42 stamps featuring flags of 21 countries that provided assistance in the Korean War (June 1950- July1953). Armed forces were sent from 16 United Nations countries, most from the United States. Five others, including Italy, the only Non-member State to participate (becoming a member on 14 December 1955), contributed medical services to support the effort. The Italian unit, because of intense political strife at home, was the last to arrive.

The Statue of Liberty with the flag of a participating country and that of Korea appear on a green stamp; a similar blue variety exhibits the UN Emblem with doves and the same flags. All are 500 won, perf. 11, on paper watermarked with curved wavy lines. The flag of Italy stamps commemorate the medical and humanitarian aid rendered by the Italian Red Cross Field Hospital 68, serving from November 1951 until January 1955. But the wrong flag vignette was used.

The crown and shield of the Old Kingdom of Italy appear in the central, vertical white panel on the original version (Scott #154-155) released 25 October 1951, just prior to the Field unit’s arrival.

Figure 1: Scott #154-155

The redesigned stamps (Scott #154a-155a) issued 10 February 1952 feature a larger shield without the crown.

Figure 2: Scott #154a-155a

Even so, the designer again used the wrong flag. On June 6, 1946 Italy became a Republic with a tricolor flag having three equally wide vertical panels of green (at the hoist side), white and red, similar to these flag stamps, but without any emblems.

Flag stamps honoring New Zealand’s participation in the war (Scott #160-161) were issued on 15 September 1951. The country name, however, is found misspelled “NEW ZEAIAND” on both varieties. The error is here exhibited on the blue stamp.

Figure 3: Scott #160-161


  1. Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue 2016, Vol. 4, J-M, pp. 213-214. Amos Media, Sidney, OH.
  2. Italian Red Cross. https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Italian_Red_Cross
  3. Flag of Italy. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_of_Italy
  4. Kerr, James, W., Korean Kingdom and Empire Philatelic Catalog and Handbook, 1965, Korea Stamp Society (Uses both Minkus and Gibbons numbers), D. G. Phillips, Buena Vista Press, Miami, FL.
  5. Dilley, Luther L. L., Korean Stamp Catalog No. 396, 1961. (Uses both KSS and Scott numbers; and, curiously, includes stamps issued up to April 1963), D. G. Phillips, Buena Vista Press, Miami, FL.
Millard Beatty
I am retired and enjoying writing for personal pleasure on topics related to stamps of general interest.

6 thoughts on “Flags of Countries Participating in the Korean War: Flag Errors

  1. Hi Milliard, do you know what position (s) the New Zealand stamp with the spelling of “I” is found in the sheets of these stamps? I had not heard of these before and will start to look for them. Thanks for this valuable information. Robert

    1. Thank you, Robert, for your interest. I do not know the sheet position of the New Zealand “I” error, or if it may have appeared uniformly. Note further the variation in the font size on the two stamps that I failed to mention. One may find a small “New Zealand” on both issues, here seen on the blue stamp.

  2. Turns out quite a lot was written about these stamps. During the early 1960s several articles were published on them, including articles on varieties found in collections during those years. See for instance KP Vol. XI No. 1 (February 1962) pages 7-8 for an article by Howard Maxcy. He notes quite a few examples of double overprints and missing colours. (Note: all editions of KP can be downloaded FOR FREE by KSS members from the KP download pages; see top menu under “Korean Philately Magazine” –> “Individual Issues”.)

  3. Hi Ivo, I read that article and almost all of the missing colours and double -printings were on the back of the stamps. It is not clear if these were mirror prints, where the stamps pick up the printings of other sheets that they are laid on the top of, but most collectors do not regards these as true varieties, and there are not many people who collect these. It is well known that these flag issues come wth both horizontal and vertical watermarks. This article does mention the New Zealand “L” variety. I did find out from another source that the Union of South Africa issue had at least two different printings, withe “Union of South Africa” printed in different lengths. Robert

  4. Thank you, Ivo, for providing the additional reference material. Following up on this, I found 3 listings from a February 1967 index supplement #1 to KP. There, on p. 4, besides your welcomed input, are references to Volume XI, #4, pp, 114, 115-119; and Volume XV, #1, pp, 8-9. The first of these deals with uncut sheets and plate layouts. The latter is an interesting story of the conceptional origin and planning of the series, including difficulties in obtaining correct flag designs for the 16 major participating countries, and the poor printing that followed. A major paper shortage precluded the destruction of the defective product, its correction, and reproduction. Another index supplement of May 1973 lists several more articles. The index to KPM, however, offers no help. The Scott and KSS catalogs were my main sources.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.