The use of Christmas Seals in Korea began with the work of the Methodist medical missionaries Dr. Sherwood Hall (Korean name Ha Rak 賀樂, 1893-1991) and his wife Dr. Marian Bottomley Hall (1896-1991) who were based in the city of Haeju (海州) in South Hwanghae Province (黃海道), now in North Korea.
Sherwood Hall was the son of Dr. William Hall (Korean name Hol 忽, 1860-1894) and Dr. Rosetta Sherwood Hall (Korean name 許乙, 1865-1951), both Methodist medical missionaries based in P’yŏngyang. Both Drs. Sherwood and Marian Hall are buried in the Yanghwa-jin (楊花津) cemetery for foreigners in Sŏul.
Christmas Seals were issued to promote medical work with tubercular patients at the Haiju (Haeju) Sanatorium from 1932. Christmas Seals are said to have been used first in Denmark in 1904, and the Drs. Hall were using, by then, a well recognised means to gain funding for what was still a major cause of death world-wide.
Before the end of the colonial period in 1945, Christmas Seals were issued for nine years from 1932 to 1940. The Halls were expelled from colonial Korea, on charges that they were American spies, but did not leave until the first week of December 1940 on the SS “President Jackson”. That ship was on her maiden trip around the world at the time and took the Hall family to Bombay, India.
This tension between Sherwood Hall and the colonial government existed from the beginning of the Christmas Seal movement. The design for the very first Korean Christmas Seal in 1932 was suppressed by the colonial regime. The design showed the Kŏbuk-sŏn or ‘Turtle Boats’, the armoured warships which defeated the Japanese navy in the battle of Hansan-do (閑山島) in 1598. This design was considered to be nationalist and anti-Japanese. Instead, a design by Sherwood Hall incorporating the Great South Gate of Sŏul (Nam Taemun 南大門) was substituted as being a neutral symbol.
James H. Grayson is Emeritus Professor of Korean Studies, The University of Sheffield, and a former Methodist educational missionary to Korea.