One of our newest Korea Stamp Society members asked the Korea Stamp Society for information on how to tell the differences between South and North Korean stamps. As most of our articles on the KSS website are on specialized topics about Korean philately, we thought it would be good to write an article about identifying Korean stamps. So following are some examples from the first early Korea Empire issues to lastly modern South Korea stamps so collectors can easily tell the difference.
Japan occupied Korean from 1905 until the end of the WWII and in addition to using Japanese stamps during that time for use in Korea, Japan issued “Offices in Korea” overprints on Japanese stamps.
After WWII was Korea was liberated, the countries were broken up into North Korea and South Korea. During the first few years, North Korea postal administration was run by the Soviet Union and the South Korea postal system was administered with the help of the US Military
North Korea (DPR Korea) Stamps
The USA military (“USAMGIK”) overprinted Japanese stamps for use in South Korea during 1946 before later in 1946 issuing the first stamps for South Korea.
South Korea Stamps
South Korea stamps are easily distinguished from North Korean by looking at a few key points.
In summary, the following are key points to identify the different eras of Korea, North Korea and South Korea on their stamps:
- Chosun Dynasty: Korean is written as Corean, valuation (Mun and Poon) in English Alphabet.
- Korea(n) Empire: 1900-1905 “Imperial Korean Post” is written in English, valuation in re (half of Poon or 2re = poon.), ch (cheun) and Wn (won).
- North Korea: 1946 to 1947 Chosun Stamp (표우선죠) written from right to left with Cho = 죠. 1948 to Present; Chosun (조선우표) is written left to right and Cho = 조. North Korea is written as DPR Korea on some of its stamps. Never is “Korea” written in English alone.
- South Korea: 1946 to June 1948 South Korean stamps also identify South Korea as Chosun Stamp (조선우표) written from left to right or top to bottom with Cho = 조. The valuation is written in the English alphabet. July 1948 to present, Republic of Korea or Korea (대한민국). Some valuation written in English. On most early South Korea stamps the word “Korea” is written in English.
Note: On all South Korean stamps after late 1953 the monad is pictured on the stamps. It is on many of the South Korean stamps prior to 1953. If a stamp has the monad, it is not from North Korea.