The Story of Monsieur Charles Aleveque

Old Korea

Charles Aleveque (known in Korea as An Ryebaek, -晏禮百) made and distributed the first photographic postcards in Korea, published a French-Korean dictionary, and represented the Korean Government at the 1900 Paris Exposition. As a representative for a French trading company, he worked for trade between Korea and France, importing modern materials for the government of the Tae Han Empire.

NOTE: If the three Chinese characters used for Aleveque’s Korean name are read together, their collective sound is ‘Allyebaek’ which close to the pronunciation of his French surname.

Aleveque came to Korea in October 1897, and travelled between Korea and Shanghai in March 1899 to import rifles for the Korean Government. He was sent also to France as a Government representative to obtain a loan from France. In July, 1901 he travelled to Rondon and to Tongking for the purpose of the importation of rice. He was a French teacher for the language institute in Chŏng-dong, Seoul. In 1901 he published a French-Korean dictionary entitled ‘Petit Dictionnaire Français-Coréen’ which was dedicated to the French Ambassador Collin de Plancy, writing ‘ À Monsieur Collin de Plancy Ministre de France à Séoul’. For Korean philatelists, Aleveque is most notable for the photographic postcards known as the ‘Aleveque postcards’.

Aleveque’s Photographic Postcards

In 1899, E. Clemencent, the foreign adviser to the Korean postal service, proposed to the Korean Government that the marketing of photographic postcards would be a good source of income. The Government then requested Charles Aleveque to make postcards using photographs which he had taken at the royal palace as well as of public scenes. These postcards commissioned by the Government are the ‘Aleveque postcards’ known to us.

As the forty-eight postcards show scenes of life in the Tae Han Empire, they are valuable not just for the postal history of Korea, but also as a photographic record of that period of modern Korean history. Aleveque took the photographs to France where they were reproduced on postcards and sold them at the 1900 Paris Exposition. When he returned to Korea, Aleveque brought some of these postcard with him for sale and affixed the ‘Eagle’ stamps on them. Of particular interest among the postcards are the ones depicting the funeral of the last Empress Myŏngsŏng (明成皇后, 1851-1895).

In a column on the right-hand side of the cards, Aleveque has written (in Korean) ‘ Aleveque, teacher of the French academy, Séoul, TaeHan’. In the upper-left corner is the French phrase ‘Séoul (Corée)’. At the bottom of the postcards is a number designating its individual place in the series, and an explanation in French of the subject of the photograph.

A Selection of the Aleveque Photographic Postcards
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Dr. Joel Lee
Born in Korea, Vietnam war participation as ROK marine, US citizen, Dr. of Ministry, Retired Presbyterian Pastor. 40 years collected for Korea stamps 1884-1905.
https://koreastamps1884-1905.com/

3 thoughts on “The Story of Monsieur Charles Aleveque

  1. Great article on these picture post cards, thanks!
    One thing to correct the 1904 stamp series shows “falcon”, not “eagle”.

  2. Thank you for your comment!

    The 13 tall series with French “POSTES IMPELIALES DE COREE” stamps, that you mentioned, issued October 1, 1903 in Korea named as “Eagle Series”. But the out side world called them “Falcon”. I don’t know why. The world must honor the origin county’s description.
    Mr. V. E. Clemencet, the French, who had been hired by the Choson (Korea) government as a Postal advisor, persuaded the government to have those, ordered these series to France July 26, 1900, and after 3 years they had been issued.

    1. This is a very interesting debate. Both classic experts Korean Jae-Seung Kim and Japanese Mizuhara called this series the “Falcon Issues”. A.M. Tracey Woodward did not give a name to the series in his book published in 1928. Since they were designed by the Mr. V.E. Clemencet, and being French, the bird definitely looks like the images of the French Imperial Eagle.
      So why are they called the “Falcon Issues”, indeed? When they were first issued, does anyone have an announcement around that time in 1903 from the Korean Post Office or anywhere in a philatelic article? Maybe the Koreans didn’t want it to be called an eagle? It may be that they were called the Falcons from the very beginning? It would be great if otherr members knew additional information about this issue. Robert

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