Gwendoline Post Office and it’s Unique Blue Cancellation

Old Korea

Gwendoline (은산-殷山) Post office was a simple postal branch which handled only postal matters of reception. Following are a few points regarding the office:

Part 1. When postal services restarted in 1895, the name of the postal office was “U-chae-sa (우체사) in Korean. The first two offices were “Han-sung (한성) and “In-cheun (인천). In August, the system of post office branches was started by the establishment of the branch Su-won (수원).

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In 1898, the temporary post office system started nationwide and was to be established in every county, thus the name “temporary post office (임시우체사) appeared. This temporary post office system was not like the government manned post office, but was staffed by the local magistrates or leaders. The system was a temporary measure to build a national structure for running the international postal services. There was also a simple post office, known as a postal reception office, that only accepted postal matters, but without collection or delivery services.

There were three postal reception offices (confirmed), “Ma-po (마포), “Gwendorine/Eun-san (은산) and “Cho-ryang (초량”). The exact time of the establishment of these postal reception offices is unknown, but in the case of the Ma-po postal reception office it was presumed to be 1901.

Thus the post offices in the Dae-Han empire were divided into post office and temporary post office, and below them there were the post office branch and the postal reception office. (From:

Part 2. The name of “Gwendoline” which appeared on the dater is, no doubt, from the Eun-san (은산) postal reception office, but there were many different views and questions as to why the name Eun-san (은산) had been called “Gwendoline” which was French. Originally, in 1962, Mr. Ki-hong Jin reported that Gwendoline was Eun-san (은산). In the May 1965, issue of “Korean Philately” (house organ of the Korean Stamp Society.

Some articles related about it in Korean are followings:

  • Interesting dater of the GWENDOLINE(은산-殷山) Postal Reception Office, Ki-Hong Jin, Philately, May, 1965, P. 24
  • About Gwendoline(은산-殷山), Ki-hong Jin, Philately, September 1971, P. 5
  • French music stamp in old Korea, Jae-whan Kim, Music world, March 1978.
  • About Gwendoline, Ki-hong Jin, Philately, April, 1978, P. 13
  • Brilliant golden dater of Gwendoline – a Go-in-dol (dolmen)? Gwendoline? Jae-sun Hyun, Philately, June 1981, P. 18
  • Philately Reward, Gwendoline and story of Mr. Chabrier,Hae-ryong Yeu, Philately, May, 1989, P. 34

Through those articles, we know about the “Gwendoline” from the past to the present:

  1. Earlier it has been thought that “Gwendoline” would be a postal ship of England, but it was confirmed as a post office.
  2. There were some who thought that it was the Un-san (운산) in North Pyung-an province or a sightseeing place of England.
  3. It had been confirmed as a Gold mine by “The Korea Review”, published in Seoul.
  4. On June 22, 1904 (Meiji 37), there was an extra edition of the official gazette of the government general of Japan in Korea, where it had been confirmed that Gwendoline was the name of Eun-san.
  5. It had been presumed that the given name Gwendoline was because the area’s common name was pronounced as “go-in-dol-ri” (dolmen)
  6. Mr. Clemencet, who was a postal advisor, took that name from a French song “Gwendoline”. (Opinion of Jae-whan Kim) Mr. Ki-hong Jin refuted that.
  7. It had not been judged whether a place or a song name clearly yet. (Hae-ryong Yeu) (From:

Part 3. [Stamp Story] “Gwendoline of Mr. Chabrier” and “Go-in-dol (dolmen)”

Fig. 1: French stamp showing Mr. Chabrier and “Gwendoline”.

In Korea there was a post office with an English name. It was GWENDOLINE (은산-殷山), the post office in South Pyung-an province.
Early in 1900, in the area of the South Pyung-an province, there were gold mines which had rich mineral deposits. At that time Korea was under the auspices of foreign powers, and the industrial rights of Un-san (운산) and Eun-san (은산) was totally handed over to
the Americans and the English.

The goldminers needed to distinguish between Un-san (운산) and Eun-san (은산) to send and receive their postal matters from their home countries. Because of the pronunciation of two names were similar, they declared Un-san (운산) as “Un-san” but Eun-san (은산) became “Gwendoline”.

About the dater (cancelling stamper), collectors named it the“Gwendoline cancellation” used for postal matters. There were so few post cards and other mail that they have been evaluated as rare philatelic material. The “Gwendoline” issue has been debated yet there is still no clear conclusion. There was an opinion that this name was from the French opera “Gwendoline” by Mr. E. Chabrier. One other opinion was that in the area there were many “Go-in-dol (dolmen), so it had been pronounced as “gwen-do-ri”. But still, how did “gwen-do-ri” become “Gwendoline”? It is this writer’s view that the end sound of “ri” from “gwen-do-ri” should had been euphonized as “lin”. As an example, the male name of “Jack” is changed to the female “Jacklin”.

The 1942 stamp shown above is from France. It was issued in memory of Alexis-Emmanual Chabrier, a French romantic composer and pianist. The stamp shows Mr. Chabrier and his musical piece “Gwendoline”. (Writer: Hae-ryong Yeu, Poet, Columnist)

Part 4. In the period of the Kingdom of Korea, there was a partial portion of a letter which had been sent to London, England, from Korea with a GWENDOLINE cancellation.

The color of the dater for foreign mail was principally black, but this dater had red ink, and, there was no Gwendoline post office. There was no clue about the dater and the color, but there were attempts to locate anything about them, even in a French dictionary. Finally, after a long search to find such dater, it was discovered that the English miners of the Eun-san Mining village of Pyung-an province called their private post office Gwendoline. In the area of Eun-san, there were many “Go-in-dol (dolmen)” and the name of Gwendoline probably came from the “Go-in-dol”
[From: Joong-ang daily newspaper, Philately history 80 years, by Jik-sun Kang;]

Eun-san Mine (은산광산/殷山鑛山)

There were Eun-san Gold and Silver mines in the provinces of Sun-san-ri, Sin-chang-myun, Sun-chun-gun, and South Pyung-an. Following is an article about them:

The mines were in the middle area (height 300m), north east of Sung-a mountain (685m), at the border of Eun-san-myun, and Sin-chang-myun of Sun-chun-gun between Young-chun-myun of Sung-chun-gun.

About 1870, the government of the Empire of Dae-han encouraged the development of gold and silver. A local figure Ki-chang Kim (김기창/金基昌) was mining for a short period, and in 1906 two Englishmen (Mudeuk and Hey) took over and gold mining progressed massively.

[From: The Dictionary of Korea National Culture (Eun-san mine (은산광산/殷山鑛山)]

Why was the dater of the GWENDOLINE (은산/殷山) postal reception office Blue in color? Due to the influence of China, generally the color of the stamp ink pad in Cho-sun was red. But the new postal dater ink color was black. Then, why was only Gwendoline (은산/殷山) Postal Reception Office Blue? There is no official answer for that. So the only way to find the answer was that we would assume it. As we see above, there were a few examples of Gwendoline (은산/殷山) Postal Reception Office: “brilliant golden dater of Gwendoline”. (Jae-sun Hyun, Philately, June 1981, P. 18)

“The color of the dater for foreign mail was principally black, but this was red.”

[Joong-ang daily newspaper, Philately history 80 years, by Jik-sun Kang;]

Mizuhara Meiso, an expert of Korea stamps of 1884-1905, wrote about the Gwendoline post office.

“The office was opened to handle the mail matters of the British mining company office, which contributed 850 won every year as their share in the expenses for the Postal Office. The contribution continued even after the takeover of the Korean Postal Service by the Japanese.”

(From: “KOREAN POSTAL HISTORY 1884-1905” Mizuhara Meiso, P. 145.)

If true, we have the clue, why the color of dater of the Gwendoline (은산-殷山) Postal Reception Office was blue! The English miners were able to use whatever stamp ink pads they had, including blue or gold or red color. But, as we see today, the dater color of most of the remaining postal matters is blue. So, we know that the dater color used by the Gwendoline (은산-殷山) Postal Reception Office was blue!

Postal Matters which have the blue “GWENDOLINE (은산/殷山) dater on them:

Fig. 2: Writer’s Collections. “GWENDOLINE” daters on the Plum 10, 20, 50 cheon stamps
Fig. 3: One of the writer’s collections. “GWENDOLINE 29 MAI 1905 COREE” on Eagle 1, 3 cheon, post card
Fig. 4: “GWENDOLINE 23 JUIN 1902 COREE” on Plum 4, 5 cheon stamps (From: › chosensa)
Fig. 5: “GWENDOLINE 2 FEVR 1903 COREE” on Plum 4 cheon, post card. (From:
Fig. 6: “GWENDOLINE 28 OCT 03 COREE” on Plum 4 cheon, Post card. From:
Fig. 7: “GWENDOLINE 1 AVRIL 05 COREE” on Plum 4 cheon, Post card. From:
Fig. 8: “GWENDOLINE 6 DEC 04 COREE” on Ealge 1×2, 2 cheon, Post card. From:
Fig. 9: “GWENDOLINE 18 DEC 04 COREE” on Eagle 1 cheon, Post card. From:
Fig. 10: “GWENDOLINE 8 DEC 04 COREE” on Plum 1, 3 cheon, Post card. From:
Fig. 11: “GWENDOLINE 6 DEC 04 COREE” on Eagle 4 cheon, Post card. From:
Fig. 12: “GWENDOLINE 4 MARS 03 COREE” on Plum 4 cheon, Post card. From:
Fig. 13: “GWENDOLINE 7 JUIN 1902 COREE” on an envelope with Plum 20 cheon stamp. (From: “KOREAN POSTAL HISTORY 1884-1905” Mizuhara Meiso, P. 145.)
Fig. 14: “GWENDOLINE 19 MARS 1904 COREE” on Plum 1, 2, 3, 4 cheon stamps and on an envelope with Eagle 20 cheon stamp. (From: “THE FACTS OF KOREAN CLASSIC STAMPS” Jae-Seung Kim, P.30.)


My all other Korea stamp 1884-1905 collections can be seen at;  or


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.

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