(Q&A) Seeking Clarity: The 1957 Korean Postal Rate and Gwanghwamun’s Dual Names

Q&A

A Swiss collector has come across a piece from 1957, a registered airmail letter from Korea to the USA. This has sparked curiosity about the breakdown of the postal tariffs, including airmail and registration fees, during that era. What resources or references could possibly shed light on the Korean postal tariffs used at the time?

Here is the question: “I recently purchased a 1957 cover sent from Korea to the USA, which was both registered and sent via airmail, for 290 Won. I’m trying to understand how this tariff was calculated, specifically looking for details on the airmail and registration fees at that time. Could anyone provide information or direct me to a book that covers all Korean postal tariffs?”

Fig. 1: Front of cover

Because of the spelling in the cancellation, there is a second question as well: “Additionally, I have a question about the spelling of Gwanghwamun, the main gate of Kyungbok Palace. I’ve seen it spelled as “KWANG HWA MOON” as well. I’m curious about the reason for the different spellings and want to make sure that “mun” does not refer to the moon in the sky.”

Fig. 2: Arrival postmark on reverse of cover

Please leave your answer(s) in the comment section below.

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2 thoughts on “(Q&A) Seeking Clarity: The 1957 Korean Postal Rate and Gwanghwamun’s Dual Names

  1. The answer to the question is that the spellings are all variants of the same Korean name. Properly in the McCune-Reischauer System, it’s Kwanghwa-mun which is reflected in the cancellation as ‘KWANG HWA MUN’. The current spelling as Gwanghwamun is based on the system used by the Ministry of Education (MOE system) internally in Korea until the adoption by the South Korean Government of the M-R system for internal and external purposes in the run-up to the Olympics in 1988. However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs always used M-R from Liberation until it was forced not to do so following the adoption of the New Government System (NGS) around 2000. NGS is the third iteration of a very imperfect system, MOE. I think that there is a mistaken belief amongst Koreans that M-R was foreign invention. In fact it was created during the colonial period by the three most eminent Korean phoneticians at a time when Korean could not be used officially. It is the earliest example of an East Asian language Romanised by local scholars and should be celebrated as a symbol of nationalism in the same way that the Han’gul alphabet is. Generally scholarship has used M-R since its inception in the 1930s until the current day because of its accuracy for pronunciation. The first letter ㄱ in Kwanghwa-mun cannot be pronounced as a ‘G’ because it is too hard a sound. ‘K’ is closest.

  2. Possibly the weirdest spelling of “Kwanghwa-mun” I haver ever seen is this spelling on this registration label: “Goang Hoamun”.

    The date in the cancellation seems to be 2 July 1962.

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