How to determine the cost of sending a telegram in a society with two different character sets?

South Korea

A problem which is very uncommon in most parts of the world is the Korean question of what to do with the fact that Koreans could use either (Korean) hangul or (Chinese) hanja characters when sending a telegram? While they can convey exactly the same message in Korean, the two writing systems are completely different and therefore require a completely different way of transmission.

How this would work technically is a different story, requiring quite a lot of explanation with regards to how the Korean language works, but how much would you have to pay for a hangul or hanja based telegram? How can you look up the exact price at a given point in South Korean history? Interestingly South Korea has digitized most of its archives in the last ten years. That makes it possible to search online for documents containing information on just this particular subject.

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Ivo Spanjersberg
Currently KSS Publisher/Webmaster, previously KSS Chairman (2018-2019). Living in Amsterdam. I collect Korean revenue stamps, see my website:

4 thoughts on “How to determine the cost of sending a telegram in a society with two different character sets?

  1. Ivo, your article got me thinking about how many countries used stamps to send telegrams, how many had special “telegram or telegraph” stamps just used for sending telegrams or how many countries didn’t used any stamps at all? I realize it is a philatelic subject I know hardly anything about. I guess there must have been some private telegraph companies that made their own stamps,too? It could be really fascinating area for collectors. I wonder if any of our members specialize in these?

  2. I think there are 41 countries that issued telegraph stamps. The US, included in this number, did not have official government-issued telegraph stamps but there were private telegraph companies that issued stamps.

    I collect telegraph stamps from British India. Stanley Gibbons’ Commonwealth catalog lists telegraph stamps for British Colonies.

  3. Korean kingdom and empire never issued telegraph stamps. Postage stamps were not used to pay fees. The only case when postage stamps were used in connection with telegram service, is the case of “letter telegrams”. Telegrams on arrival were handwritten into forms and these forms were mailed in envelopes marked “letter telegrams”. Stamp(s) used paid the postal letter tariff to mail the envelope. So this was a postal service what was paid by the postage stamps.
    Under japanese occupation and after regaining independence, postage stamps were used to pay the telegraph fees and pasted to the telegram original at the telegram counter of the post office of dispatch.

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