The webmaster suggests that you open this picture file now, then minimize it after viewing. I am writing this journal while in Korea attending PHILAKOREA 2009, my fourth such show (1984, 1994, 2002, 2009).
Somehow, I’ve always managed to put together business reasons for being in Korea during the show; strange, isn’t it? I hope
you will forgive me a rather ethnocentric view of my almost full week at the show. This may well be my last chance to attend
a PHILAKOREA show; it is unlikely that I will be here for PHILAKOREA 2019, if there is a ten-year gap between shows, as there was between 1984 and 1994.
Busan, 7/28/09 Nurimaru APEC House
The user can then open it to see the "figures" referred to.
See 2009 PHILAKOREA pictures.
I left home on July 26 and arrived in Busan in the evening of July 27, having connected in Narita. Busan has wonderful memories for me because of the generous hospitality and friendship of many in the Busan Philatelic Association. However, on this trip, my primary objective was to deliver a workshop at Dongeui University.
My host for this visit was Dr. Ahn Young-sik, one of my former doctoral advisees, who is now an Associate Professor at Dongeui University. He, his wife, and their two sons joined me in the morning of July 28 for a city tour. The city has expanded considerably since my last visit. One of the sites that we visited was the Nurimaru (World Summit) APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation has 21 country members, to my surprise including Canada, the U.S., Mexico, Peru, and Chile that participated in the 2005 summit. The building is located on Dongbaekseom Island. It is located near Haeundae Beach and is surrounded by beautiful, natural landscape. It was built to host a three-day APEC summit meeting in 2005 and has been used since for other prestigious international gatherings. It is a 3-storey building in the style of a traditional Korean pavilion.
Figure 1 shows me with Dr. Ahn in front of the building. Korea recognized the importance of the summit by issuing a commemorative stamp depicting the building (Scott #2211, Figure 2). It is always fun to visit a location that has been commemorated in a stamp issue.
I am writing this journal while in Korea attending PHILAKOREA 2009, my fourth such show (1984, 1994, 2002, 2009). Somehow, I’ve always managed to put together business reasons for being in Korea during the show; strange, isn’t it? I hope you will forgive me a rather ethnocentric view of my almost full week at the show. This may well be my last chance to attend a PHILAKOREA show; it is unlikely that I will be here for PHILAKOREA 2019, if there is a ten-year gap between shows, as there was between 1984 and 1994.
Nurimaru APEC House
One of the reasons I was so anxious to start my trip to Korea in Busan was the opportunity to find out why I had not received responses from Jae-Seung Kim to my letters and e-mails. KP readers will recognize his name as a frequent contributor to KP and as a well-known exhibitor and author on Korean stamps.
Dr. Ahn was able to reach him on his cell phone, but, unfortunately, we discovered that he had just completed surgery in Seoul for a brain tumor that had affected his ability to speak or write in English. He was, however, able to converse well with Dr. Ahn in Korean.
Those who would like to send good wishes to him may do so at:
Sae Dong Enterprise Co. Ltd.
Sae Dong Building
65-25, 2-Ka, Nambang-Dong
Republic of Korea
We certainly extend to him our best wishes for a speedy and complete recovery.
Seoul, July 29
The next day, I boarded the train to travel from Busan to Cheonan Asan, where I was picked up for lunch and then driven to the SK Telecom Futures Management Institute to do another workshop. Dinner followed, and we arrive at the Intercontinental Coex Hotel late in the evening.
Seoul, July 30
PHILAKOREA 2009 opened on Thursday, July 30. My hotel was nicely located right next to the Coex Exhibition Hall. So I headed over for the Opening Ceremony at 10:30 a.m.
The opening ceremony got under way late in the hallway outside of the huge exhibition room. As there were very few seats, most of the audience had to stand. The sound system was terrible. All speakers spoke in Korean with following translation. I was able to hear about every third word, and what I heard was not very interesting. It was basically an appreciation statement for everyone involved in organizing the event. PHILAKOREA 2009 was hosted by Korea Post Office and the Philatelic Federation of Korea, with additional sponsorships from the Ministry of Economics, Science, and Technology; the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism, the Korea Customs Service; and the Seoul Metropolitan Government. Of course, we were also entertained with traditional Korean musical instruments and song.
I’ve never quite figured out who the opening ceremony of a stamp show is for. It doesn’t seem to interest many in the audience, and it takes a long time. Fortunately, the show was opened with the beginning of the ceremony, so many of us wandered away from the opening ceremony to begin our explorations of the show. A small musical group Figure 3 was playing, and the music followed us into the exhibition area Figure 4.
In previous shows that I have attended, there was a daily newsletter, but none were to be found, at least on this day, and no one at the greeting desk knew what I was talking about, though their English skills were quite good. I did pick up two brochures that were available there: a daily event schedule and a special events schedule.
I began to wander the exhibit hall, I was amazed that the security printers for Korea had a major display that focused much more heavily on currency (both paper and coins) and passports than on stamps. As I began to visit the dealers, I also noted that many of the dealers were displaying currency, as well, some with quite extensive displays. I don’t remember this from previous years, but perhaps my memory is not as strong as it used to be. I’m wondering if we are seeing here what is also happening in the U.S., with a movement away from philately into numismatics. I was actually stopped by one collector who wanted to go through my wallet looking for U.S. coins and paper money that were missing from his collection!
Postcards of Stamp Designers
As I was wandering around looking for potential candidates to interview, I saw a young man with a stack of long, sheets of heavy card stock. I asked him what they were, and I was told that he really didn’t know; someone had thrust them at him and told him to get rid of them. I asked if I could have one, and he seemed glad to give it to me.
Each strip consists of 8 postcard-sized mini-posters, with 7 actually designed as postcards. The 8th is a list of the 2009 issuance schedule for South Korean stamps. On the address side of the card is a Korean stamp designer (2 appear to be men, 4 women, and 1 blank). Above the portrait is room for a message, and the address goes to the right of the portrait. On the flip side is a cancelled picture of the stamp that the designer designed. The cards are very attractive.
I went up to the 2nd floor to the exhibition headquarters to see who I might find there. I did meet the editor of Korean Stamp Review and set up a time for an interview. While I was there, I noticed the stack of postcards that apparently had not been distributed by the draftee, so I asked if I could have another one. I was gladly given a second copy.
My guess is that the primary purpose for this promotion was to encourage participants to return each day to meet another stamp designer and to get her or his autograph. This is a guess on my part, as I never found anyone who seemed to know what they were for, and I didn’t make it to any of the signings. I did show up at the end of one session, and the line was extremely long.
Later in the week, I found out that the Korea Post booth was selling the individual cards with a postage meter imprint that was then to be used to mail the card after obtaining the autograph of the designer. That designer’s stamps were also being sold, and many collectors were getting the designer’s autograph directly on the stamps. Figures 5a -5d.
Japanese Occupation of Korea
While quickly scanning some of the exhibits, I met a Korean man with a large fan that had clearly been given out as a promotion, and I was so hot that I asked him where he had obtained it. He said that it was a promotion from a bank and that he had not gotten it at the show, but he then offered it to me. I was not about to take his only fan from him, but anyone who has visited Korea knows how insistent Koreans can be around hospitality. So I ended up, gratefully, with the fan.
We then began to talk. Kang Hae-won is a philatelist from Incheon. He explained that he collected classic Korean Empire and Japanese Occupation of Korea. I was very excited to hear this as I have been trying to find someone to do an article for us on the Japanese Occupation of Korea postal history. So I asked if he would be willing to do an article for us. He explained that he had so much material that he didn’t know how to break it down into an article. So I told him that I would be glad to run multiple parts, just as we have been doing with Ken Clark’s wonderful material. He was also concerned about his English skills, but I promised to work with him on that. So, I am very hopeful that he will follow through and that we will be treated to some wonderful material on this interesting aspect of Korean philately. (So far, however, there has been no word from him.)
South Korean Post Office
My next destination was the South Korean post office booth. I saw that a very long line had formed. I want near the front of the line to see what they were buying, but it wasn’t at all clear to me. Intrigued, I got into line to see what I was going to buy. It turned out, much to my surprise, that it was a 250won postage meter with a commemorative insignia embedded in it for PHILAKOREA 2009 and an indicia in the upper left corner of the envelope. The enveloped also had an illustration of a falcon (?) and the insignia of the exhibition Figure 6a. I was then asked if I also wanted a sticker. I couldn’t quite figure out what that meant, but I said sure–for 250won, how could I go wrong? It turned out to be the same meter as printed on the envelope, but it was a strip that could then be stuck on any other mailer that one chose Figure 6b. I have never been a big fan of postal meters, and, in spite of much pleading on my part, I have not had anyone step forward to do an article on this topic. As such, I was extremely surprised to see such a long line, and with purchases of 10 at a time of both envelopes and stickers. Perhaps someone can help me understand the significance of this phenomenon. Is postal meter collecting growing because of the scarcity of postage stamps in use?
Of course, I couldn’t resist the first day of show cancels on the two triangular PHILAKOREA 2009 stamps Figure 7, and the 5 covers with a pair of the 2009 bird stamps, with the cachet of a bird flying to its nest and the inscription, “PHILAKOREA 2009 24th Asian International Stamp Exhibition,” presumably in Korean as well as in English Figure 8.
One of the exciting innovations at PHILAKOREA2002 was the announcement of an on-line stamp system, but that system seems not to have been implemented. Given the success rate of such systems elsewhere, as in the U.S., there are efforts, again, to move to on-line postage in Korea. Dr. Jung Hoon, the Head of the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute and designer of the system (standing on my left, with Cheong Jin-Yong, Deputy Director of Postal Information and Technology Team, Korea Post, on my righ t in Figure 9), explained that the system will go live in January, 2010. An example that they were displaying is shown inFigure 10. I am hoping to get an article on this from the company that I can include in a future issue of KP. (This material has now been received.)
“My Own” Stamps
Many of our older members will remember that they receive a block of four stamps following the PHILAKOREA2002 show that had our society’s logo as a tab to a Korean “My Own” stamp. The design of the actual stamp contained the mascots from that show, and the design, overall, was relatively unimaginative (in my view).
This year, however, the “My Own” stamps are back in full force and attracted a lot of attention at the show, with a photographer available for free to take pictures to incorporate into the “My Own” stamps. As can be seen in Figure 11, the designs have gotten much more creative and attractive. With the large photo center piece, making the outcome appear as a souvenir sheet, the postal option for a wonderful souvenir of a special event becomes very appealing, especially to anyone who has a philatelic interest or memory from childhood.
Interview with Song Kwan-ho, Director of International Business Division, Korea Post
Quite by chance, I began a conversation with Song Kwan-ho before I knew who he was. It proved to be an interesting conversation. He explained that, at present, only 3% of mail in Korea uses stamps, and this includes definitive as well as commemorative stamps. There has been a steady decline in the number of stamps produced by Korea Post each year. With 200 million stamps printed in 2008, he expects that number will plateau at about 180 million. I did ask if he envisioned a time when paper stamps would disappear in Korea, and he was quite emphatic that he does not see this happening.
Korea Post actively supports philately, with a primary focus on school children. Currently, there are approximately 140,000 stamp collectors of all ages in Korea. (The Korea Philatelic Federation represents a membership of 5,000, presumably serious collectors or philatelists.) Of these, there are 3,000 primary school children in clubs sponsored by Korea Post in 250 schools with 700 “official” teachers who have been identified as “philately promoters.” These teachers are responsible for helping the children learn how to write letters and to have fun with stamps.
I then tried to figure out what contribution stamp collectors made to Korea Post’s budget, but I wasn’t very successful at this. The current domestic rate is 250won. Korea Post has tried to get this increased to 300won, but they have not been successful in getting approval from the Ministry of Finance for this increase. The cost of printing a commemorative stamp is 50won, while the cost of a definitive stamp is 10won. The cost of a delivered letter is estimated to be about the 300won that they are requesting for domestic postage. This would suggest that there is a considerable “profit” if a stamp is purchased and saved, rather than being used. But the profit is much less than it appears because: a) so few collectors buy stamps and save them; and b) there are considerable costs associated with philately, such as marketing, shipping, supporting the school clubs, hosting and staffing international shows, publishing Korea Stamp Review, and so on.
The situation financially is not bad for Korea Post, however. Korea Post is very competitive with courier services’ EMS and parcel post, and this aspect of their business produces a profit. At present, the profit from these services exceeds the losses from postage, leading to an overall profit for Korea Post.
Figure 12 shows a session of the collecting class. There are some interesting things to note about the class from this photo. First, unlike previous years (at least in my experience), adults were actively involved in the class. Second, there were a number of mothers working with their children. It was explained to me that many mothers bring their children to the show because they were collectors as children and have fond memories of their collecting. They want their children to share the same experience, so they bring them along.
Each participant is given an envelope (courtesy of Korea Post) with detailed instructions in Korean as to how to assemble their “collection.” Inside the envelope were two heavy stock album pages inside plastic sleeves; I did wonder about the archival quality of both, and assume that neither is of archival quality, leading, of course, to ultimate deterioration of the stamps. In my packet was a mint New Year’s card from 2007, an FDC of a New Year’s envelope issued in 2007; and two mint souvenir sheets; all of these were already in plastic sleeves Figure 13. In addition, there were 7 older mint stamps, not in mounts. Material was provided, however, to make the mounts. See Figure 14 for a collage of these items from my packet; each packet was different.
The directions to the participants was to use the scissors provided to construct mounts for the stamps and to use the glue provided to glue the mounts to the pages. Of course, as a philatelist, I always get nervous when I see glue and stamps even in the same vicinity. So I asked the instructor as he was wandering around the room about this. His response was that they just wanted the kids to have fun, and this was the easiest way for them to mount the stamps. Everyone there did seem to be working hard and having fun, but…
Another problem, as with so much of this show, is that everything was in Korean, so it was clearly directed toward Koreans, and international visitors were simply left out. With 25 other countries participating from the Asia region, plus participants from outside of Asia, this was clearly a problem. I heard many people saying that “there is nothing to do here” because of the language barrier.
Christmas Seals of Korea
I have never been a fan of “seals” within philately, but I know that there is some interest, and the Korean (and other specialized catalogues) include them, along with stamps. During my tenure as editor, I have not received an article on such seals, except for isolated examples of individual seals.
When I saw the booth for the Korean Tuberculosis Society, I was intrigued and went to take a look. I was struck, as I often am, with the beauty of the seals that were on display. Also on display was a book, Christmas Seal of Korea. Everything is in Korean, but it shows what appears to be an individual’s collection from the first seal in 1932 up through 2003, with seals, cards, souvenir sheets, and other ephemeral. It is a beautiful publication, and I wanted to own it. So, I tried to communicate this with the two women staffing the booth. But they kept saying that it wasn’t for sale; “only display.” I couldn’t understand this, as it was clearly a publication that forwarded the cause of the association and their seals. But, as I was about to give up and walk away, one woman reached under the table, pulled out a copy, and gave it to me. I asked how much it would be, and she repeated that it wasn’t for sale, “only for display.” So, I then offered to make a donation to the association, but they wouldn’t accept that, either. I feel as if I was given a gift of beautiful art! See example pages in Figures 15-182—the first issue to the last one included in the publication.
Seoul, July 31
I made my daily sojourn to the exhibition, only to find it extremely dead. No one was at the Korea Post Office booth, a few people were exploring the exhibits, and a few people were visiting booths.
The Green Zone
The biggest attraction seemed to be an electric car Figure 19 and truck Figure 20; the kids loved them, and they seemed just the right size for them! As part of the emphasis on the environment, the cars were in the “Green Zone,” a path lined with trees and flowers inside the exhibition hall Figure 212. As part of that effort, the front desk today was handing out fans focused on the set of four stamps issued for the environment Figures 22 and 23 for the fan (front and back, though I don’t know which is which). The fans are very welcome here as it is extremely hot—over 30 degrees Celsius yesterday and 28 today.
Once again, I was struck at the lack of English in what is billed as an international show. Many posters and signs are in Korean only, leaving the non-Korean speaking visitor to guess at what is happening or what the sign or poster is about. Likewise, it is difficult to find Koreans with good English skills in the booths. The volunteer staff, on the other hand, is mostly young people with at least passable English skills, and many of them have excellent English!
North Korean Stamps
I went back to the Seoul Stamp Co. booth to see what I could find out about the North Korean stamps that they had on display. I found out that the 80% that I understood yesterday to be the price was actually the discount Figure 24. So buyers could pick up “new, mint” stamps at only 20% of catalogue. The next question, of course, was which catalogue? The answer was the North Korean catalogue. I also asked the source of the North Korean stock, and his response was, “a friend.”
The dealer and I were having quite a difficult time communicating, but there was a man who was looking through stock who started to talk with me. It turned out that he is a small-time dealer from China. So we began a conversation about his experiences with North Korean stamps. He had been to North Korea three times, and each time he was there he visited a post office. But all he could find were definitive stamps, and he was always accompanied by a North Korean official, so he was not able to ask any probing questions.
I asked him where he got his North Korean stamps, and his response was, “large dealers in Beijing.” When I asked where they got them, he indicated that he did not know. He did say that the stamps were extremely cheap, and he is convinced that most of the stamps had never been outside of China, as the Chinese produce many of these stamps for North Korea. He also said that it was clear that the only outlet for the stamps was stamp collectors, as no one in North Korea ever got to see or use them.
He also cautioned about the conversation I had had with the South Korean stamp dealer. He said that it was extremely tricky to convert from the North Korean currency as priced in their catalogue into “real” currencies. As a result, it can look like a good buy, but, in reality, the collector is over-paying for the stamps. He was very clear that there was little interest or demand for North Korean stamps in China.
North Korean postal history, according to him, was seldom seen in China. When I asked about counterfeit postal history or archived postal history coming out of North Korea, he claimed ignorance about both.
Dinner with My Korean Former Doctoral Advisees
One of the joys of coming to Korea for me is reuniting with my Korean former doctoral advisees. In addition, through their connections, it makes a trip like this possible as I can “earn” my way through doing workshops. So, I was able to do a public workshop, with about 25 attendees, followed by a wonderful buffet dinner. See Figure 25 for some of my former advisees/friends.
Seoul, August 1
Saturday morning found me as a breakfast guest of a former post-doctoral student and former Minister of Education and Human Resource Development in Korea (Dr. Moon Yong-lin), a retired professor friend (Lee Wha-kuk) and his son, a current doctoral student, Lee Hyun-eung, who has now graduated. Knowing of my interest in philately, Dr. Moon gave me two DPRK folders—one of “Mt. Kumgang on Korean Stamps” and one on “World of Butterflies” (though there were also random stamps included in the second folder). Dr. Moon has visited Pyongyang twice as a tourist; it is his grandfather’s home city. When he visited, he was not allowed to leave the hotel except in a government provided tour bus from which they were not allowed to leave. The folders were purchased in the gift store of the hotel. He added that the trip to Pyongyang was “extremely expensive.” Dr. Lee provided the South Korean folder, “Postage Stamps Issued in 1993.”
Interview with Dr. Kim, Chang-Hwan, President of the Philatelic Federation of Korea
The Philatelic Federation of Korea was the organizing sponsor of PHILAKOREA 2009. During his second term as VP for the Federation, Dr. Kim Figure 26 was assigned as the Commissioner-General. Since February of 2009, he has also served as the President of the PFK.
As Commissioner-General, he was responsible for soliciting exhibits from the 30 countries that are members of FIAP; 26 are actually participating. The Commissioner from each country solicits exhibits and determines which are appropriate for submission. Dr. Kim organizes a committee to review submissions, but the ultimate decision is made by the Commissioner-General, the FIAP Coordinator (this year from Thailand), and a Senior Consultant from FIAP (from Singapore). This year, there are about 1,300 exhibits, including the invited exhibits for the Court of Honor. Dr. Kim thought that the country commissioners did an excellent job, so most of the submissions to his committee were selected for inclusion.
During the selection process, there are no quotas based on category; each exhibit is judged on its own merit and then distributed to the appropriate category. This year, few exhibits were submitted to the Aero and Astro categories. Because the open class is not popular in Korea, it was not included as an option in this year’s show.
There are about 30 exhibitors in the one-frame category. While this is a good way for beginners to start, it is certainly not limited to beginners. Some experts have a narrow specialization, and one-frame exhibits are perfect for such collectors. However, this can be discouraging for beginners because they are then competing with experts.
Philately is declining in Korea just as it is in other countries. The younger generation seems to be more interested in video games and technology pursuits. Korea Post could do something about this by encouraging the use of stamps on mailings, but, for some reason, they are reluctant to do this. And so we are left with an abundance of bulk rate stamps and postal meters, rather than postage stamps. Further, letter writing is disappearing because of cell phones, the Internet, and other technological forms of communication. But there are still stamp lovers and older philatelists who try to encourage the interest of youth. There is a program for volunteers to participate in schools where stamp clubs are a sponsored extra-curricular activity. Korea Post needs to see stamp collecting, not as a financial factor, but as a cultural event that conveys information on Korean culture, traditions, geography and history, and so on.
In the PFK, there are 61 member clubs in 7-8 local chapters. Half of these are in the Seoul area, with the other half spread throughout the country. The PFK hosts a national show once a year and a youth exhibition once a year. Because of the school-based stamp clubs, they have lots of exhibits for the youth exhibition, but the quality is not very high. They also publish a 70-80 page monthly journal in Korean. They tried mixing Korean and English, but it did not work very well because they could not get sufficient English articles. The journal is professionally published in color and bound. Clearly, they are well-sponsored with ads as it is published monthly, as well. I picked up a copy of the most recent journal to donate to our Korean philatelic library collection, and we have agreed to an ongoing exchange. So, for those of you who can read Korean, this will be a wonderful addition to our library collection. I also picked up a copy of a monograph designed to help new collectors, though it, too, was in Korean.
When asked about the future of philately in Korea, Dr. Kim expressed some short-term pessimism, anticipating that there would continue to be a slight decline in interest. However, overall, he was quite optimistic, believing that this trend would turn around, with the continuing emphasis on the school clubs and, especially, if Korea Post would change its attitude toward stamp collecting and the use of stamps.
While he acknowledged that this year’s show was quite a bit smaller than the 2002 show, he did remind me that the 2002 show was an international show, while this year’s show is an Asian show. In 2002, there were over 2,500 exhibits compared with this year’s 1,300. The attendance at this year’s show is much lower, especially among foreigners. Dr. Kim explained this in that Hong Kong had hosted an Asian show just two months ago, and just a few months before that there had been a huge show in China. Both of those shows were very well attended.
After I left the interview, I stopped at the PFK booth and purchased a copy of Korean Postal Service 125 Years Seen through Postage Stamps for 25,000won, about $21 U.S. It is a beautiful publication in A4 size containing ten full exhibits, many of which are the same as or similar to those included in this year’s show. Two of the exhibits are of the Korean Empire Era, while the rest are from the end of the war (1945) to 1972. Again, it is very interesting to me that there is nothing included of the Japanese occupation, nor did I see any exhibit covering this era.
At the booth, I also picked up the show catalogue. Strangely, this was not widely available, for example, at the front desk of the show. But one had to really search it out to find it. The jury is pictured, and, helpfully, e-mail addresses are provided. It’s clear that philately continues to be a male-dominated hobby. Of the 33 jury members, only two were women—one from Singapore and one from Korea. The awards and special prizes are pictured; these were also displayed prominently in the show. They are beautiful. Examples from the Court of Honor are also illustrated. Strangely, only one exhibit from the Court of Honor is associated with Korean philately: “Repatriation Exchanged Mail between Korea and Japan under U.S.M.G. (28th Oct. 1945 – 20th Nov. 1946.” This page is shown in Figure 27a., b.
Meeting with Kevin Mackeown
While interviewing Dr. Kim, Kevin Mackeown, a KSS member from Hong Kong and a frequent contributor to KP came by. We had “talked” through e-mail about getting together at the show. We made arrangements to meet immediately after the interview.
Kevin is exhibiting his postal stationery of North Korea exhibit. I asked him to show me his exhibit which he did, and he agreed to write some articles based on it for KP Figure 28. It was a very impressive exhibit with many items that I had not seen before, even in the catalogues of postal stationery that have been published in recent years. I’ve never understood why there seems to be so little interest in postal stationery, especially among postal history exhibitors. We will see what happens with the awards. (Happily, his exhibit received a vermeil award; well deserved!)
Kevin and I had never met previously, so it was great fun to just sit and chat about what we had seen at the show and our own impressions of Korean philately. Kevin was disappointed in the number of dealers at the show and the total lack of material of a more serious nature. He wasn’t able to find anything for his collection, though he didn’t really expect to find much North Korean material at the show.
While visiting, Kevin informed me that Dr. Taizo Maeda was staying in the same hotel as I was. So, departing with the expectation of seeing each other again at the Palmares banquet on Monday night, I returned to the hotel to see if I could contact Dr. Maeda.
Visit with Dr. Taizo Maeda
Dr. Maeda’s writings will be well known to all KSS members, both through his extensive contributions to KP, and his own monograph on North Korean stamps. Dr. Maeda was very willing to go back to the show with me to look at his exhibit. He was very happy to walk me through his exhibit Figure 29, which has previously been awarded a large vermeil.
I was blown away by his exhibit, and I was thrilled with his stories of several of the key pieces and their provenance. He also promised to provide additional articles from his exhibit for KP, especially some of his recent acquisitions. I am convinced that he deserves at least a gold medal for this exhibit, though he and I are both a little concerned about how a North Korean exhibit will be viewed in South Korea.
I had met Dr. Maeda previously at PHILAKOREA2002, and I have exchanged many letters and e-mails with him over the course of my editorship. I was very much looking forward to visiting with him again, and I was not disappointed. I, too, look forward to seeing him again at the Palmares banquet and hope to be able to celebrate with him! (Sadly, he was again awarded a large vermeil; his exhibit clearly deserved a gold!)
In previous shows, there had been a daily newsletter. This year, the publication of the newsletters seems to be more sporadic. The first newsletter was distributed (though, again, not widely) today, with a July 31 date. Both English and Korean versions are published. They are different, with some different pictures and clearly a different layout. The editors seem to be hard-pressed to fill the four pages; many of the pages are taken from other documents already available to show goers. The only really new item was a report of the Opening Ceremony, which took place on July 30!
The August 2 newsletter, also four pages, reported on the “Philatelist Night,” a program hosted by PFK for “FIAP leadership, Commissioners and the Jury members and their spouses, Korean and overseas stamp dealers, and Korean philatelists.” I did receive an invitation from Dr. Kim during our interview, but, by then, I had already made other commitments for the night. This issue also highlighted an exhibit on “Early Netherlands East Indies Philately.” Other items included a very brief interview of a U.S. dealer (Mr. Cohen from New York). He expressed his disappointment over the number of people actually purchasing stamps.
On the final day, the August 4 newsletter, again in four pages, was mostly about the Palmares. A write-up on the Grand Prix d’Honneur Award exhibit and special prizes was included, along with a very brief report of the FIAP meeting, a report of a cultural tour around Seoul, and photos from the show.
Korean Stamps on Cover
I hurried back to the hotel to be picked up by one of my first Korean doctoral advisees, Dr. Yang Jong-cheul, for dinner with his family at his apartment. Dr. Yang is the president of a medium-sized consulting company in Korea. He has his secretary set aside all of the envelopes that the company receives and, on a regular basis, passes them on to me by post. Knowing that I was coming to Korea, he had saved them all for me.
Consistent with what I have been hearing in the interviews, most of the mail consisted of postage meters or hand stamps for postage. Few of the envelopes had stamps on them, and most of these were definitives. Nevertheless, I am grateful to get these covers.
Seoul, August 2
Sunday morning brought me back to the exhibition hall. I had been bugging the front desk for information about when the award information would be available. They did not know and sent me up to the second floor administration office. I found out that they were not planning on distributing the results until the Palmares banquet on Monday night. I objected, indicating that there would be only a reduced show day on Tuesday to review the awards with the exhibits. With some reluctance, they indicated that I should come back on Monday at 3 p.m. to pick up an “advance” copy, as a journalist!
Interview with Kim In-ho, an Editor, Korean Stamp Review
On the first day of the show, I had met and set up an interview time with Kim In-ho, one of two editors of the Korean Stamp Review (KSR). However, when I showed up for the interview, he was not there but was attending a session of FIAP (Federation of Inter-Asian Philately). However, thanks to cell phone technology, they were able to contact him and remind him of our appointment. He was there shortly afterwards. Figure 30 shows us in conversation.
Mr. Kim is a recent graduate from university with a major in business administration. He has worked for Korea Post for 1.5 years, the current tenure of his association with KSR. The term of affiliation with the journal averages three years, after which the editors are given other assignments within Korea Post. This position is Mr. Kim’s first job out of university.
He wears many hats in addition to his editorship of KSR, including the Korea Post Booth Manager at stamp shows. Mr. Kim does not have a philatelic background, but his exposure to stamps and his experiences at the international stamp shows is increasing his interest. He finds that he is often able to buy many stamps from other countries on the last day of stamp shows at a significant discount off face. This opportunity is leading him to become a collector; he is particularly interested in stamps of old maps and people. Korea Post may also offer its stamps at a slight discount on the last day of a show. We’ll see if they do so at this show! Because Korea Post sells its stamps at face values (as do most agencies), and because Korea’s domestic rate is low and the stamps are attractive and of high quality, he finds that they sell many stamps at international stamp shows.
According to Mr. Kim, Korea Post does not currently participate in swapping of stamps with other postal agencies. I find this strange, as I understood that this was a requirement for all postal agencies; so I assumed that this was already the practice.
I was most interested in knowing how articles were solicited for the journal, as this is one of my ongoing struggles as an editor. Mr. Kim walked me through the most recent issue of KSR and described how the material was accumulated for each issue, as follows:
Philatelic Essay: This is the opening piece in each issue, and Mr. Kim sees this as one of the most important aspects of the journal. Their goal is to find a high level individual within the department or a well-known expert in Korean philately to write this. The essay in the current issue was written by the new President of Korea Post. These are usually written in Korean and sent to a translation service for translation into Korean. Unfortunately, the translation service knows nothing about philately, so the philatelic terms are sometimes mistranslated and are missed in the editing process. Interestingly, no native English speakers are involved at any stage of the editing process.
Participation of Korea Post in International Stamp Shows: The commissioner for Korea usually writes up the experiences of the show and provides photographs.
New Issues: Michelle Kwak, Assistant Director, is responsible for these pages, and Mr. Kim thought that these pages were also extremely important for KSR in meeting its marketing objective. However, it is not necessary to write these up for KSR as the content is the same as included in the individual stamp brochure describing new stamp issues; these are written by Ms. Kwak. Some graphic art work is necessary for the journal.
Collecting Korean Stamps: This is a new feature of the journal and will be a regular feature. It is designed to help new collectors and is written by Lee Seok-yun, an Assistant Manager of the Korean Philatelic Center, as is Mr. Kim. Mr. Lee is a famous collector.
Articles: Sometimes there are submissions of articles from collectors, but these are seldom accepted as they are often not written to match the mission of the journal. However, they would like to increase the number of such articles. Thus, in the most recent issue, they have a postcard sized insert inviting such submissions.
As I had read rumors that Korea Post might be considering dropping the publication of KSR, I asked Mr. Kim about this. He emphatically rejected such a rumor and said that they were hoping to expand the distribution of the journal. Currently, about 2,200 copies of the journal are distributed to dealers, postal agencies, journalists, libraries, and individuals, at no cost.
I was able to suggest some specific suggestions for improving the journal, and they were well received. I was able to explain the difference between volume number and issue number, both of which had been misused on several recent issues. This has now been corrected. In fact, in return for such suggestions, Mr. Kim gave me a copy of the booklet produced by Korea Post for PHILAKOREA 2009 Figure 31 for the front and back cover and Figure 32 for the inside and the strip of stamps that is folded to fit into the booklet). I was also able, for the first time, to pick up a schedule for the Opening Ceremony and the Palmares Banquet. Mr. Kim also invited me, as his guest, to attend the banquet, which I gratefully accepted.
Before heading back to my hotel, I made a last quick tour around the perimeter of the exhibition hall to see if there were any other “goodies” being distributed on this day. At the booth of the Security Printers for Korea, there was a huge pile of silver coins in plastic containers. I asked what they were and was told that they were commemorative coins (not legal tender) that KOMSCO for the show. On one side, it reads: “Creating trust & value” and “Asian philatelists, We are one.” On the other side, there is only Korean, which I assume reads the same as the English, only it has the year (2009) and reference to the 24th Asian show. Te design is so subtle it does not show up on a scan.
I spent the rest of the day on Sunday with Dr. Joo Sam-hwan, my first Korean doctoral student. Our two families had become very close as my church had provided support to Dr. Joo so his family could join him in the U.S. during his studies, and our relationship provided a good opportunity for our four adopted Korean children to have contact with Korean children.
Seoul, August 3
My Monday began with a trip to Ewha University, one of the top women’s universities in Korea, to do a workshop and have lunch with the faculty. Our President, Peter Beck, had just taught at Ewha a week earlier; what a small world! I returned to the show to pick up the promised list of exhibit awards. It was still not available when I returned to the show, and they told me to pick it up at the banquet! The award ribbons had, by now, been posted on the exhibits, so I explored some of my favorite exhibits to see how they did.
After having received two invitations to attend the Palmares banquet, I was still told, frequently, that I needed a ticket to get in. I gave them the names of those who had invited me; they tried to contact them, without success. So, they took my name, said they would check, and that I needed to check with them before entering the banquet room.
I arrived at the shuttle bus at the designated time, 6 p.m., but we did not depart until 6:30 p.m., arriving at the Renaissance Hotel just before the banquet began. A new Korean friend and philatelist saw me and gave me a ticket Figures 33 a,b.. We entered the banquet hall without having to produce a ticket, and no one ever did ask for tickets. “Much ado about nothing!” As we entered the banquet room, we were given a copy of the Palmares in nicely published format.
On entering the banquet room, I almost immediately identified Dr. Maeda, and we discussed his exhibit’s results. I looked for Kevin, but the room was so large that I never did find him (400 were reported to be in attendance). The room was beautiful. I found myself at a table of mostly Japanese. I was seated between my new Korean friend and a young Japanese man who represents the Czech Republic in Japan but who was at the show representing Japan Post.
Unlike most banquets that I attend, this one was truly a wonderful meal. See the menu in Figure 34. The show also moved along smoothly without any interruption for eating, so the evening passed quite quickly. While the cultural entertainment was beautiful, it went on too long for my tastes. In spite of that, the banquet and events ended 15 minutes early!
Of course, the ultimate objective of a show such as this is the exhibits and the awards that they received. Of the 1,211 judged exhibits, 13 received large golds and 21 a gold. What follows are the exhibits that are related to Korean philately—the exhibitor (country), the category of the exhibit, the title of the exhibit, and the number of points received under each of the award categories:
Grand Prix National-KIM, Yo-Chi (ROK) – Traditional Korea - “Great Joseon and Daehan Empire (1884-1909)” (also received a Large Gold and a special prize) (97)
Large Gold-INOUE, Kazuyuki (Japan) – Postal History Korea – “Korean Postal History 1876 – 1910” (95) (plus special prize)
Gold-KIM, Jung-Suk (ROK) – Postal History Korea – “The Postal History of Korea in a Time of Transition, 1945-1948” (93) (plus special prize)
OH, Byung-Yoon (ROK) – Postal History of Korea – “Foreign Postal Systems in Great Jeson During the Treaty Ports Era (1876-1899)” (92)
OH, Byung-Yoon (ROK) – Postal History of Korea – “History of Postal Service During the ‘Korea-Japan Communication Agencies Treaty’ Period/18 May 1905-
29 Aug 1910” (93) (plus special prize)
Large Vermeil-MAEDA, Taizo (Japan) – Traditional Korea – “DPRK (North Korea) 1945-1953” (89) (plus special prize)
KIM, Jong-Woo (ROK) – Traditional Korea – “Korean War-Time Surcharge Series” (85)
KIM, Yeong-Lin (ROK) – Traditional Korea – “The 2nd Regular Stamps of Korea (1951-1953)” (86)
SEO, Guk-Sung (ROK) – Revenue – “The Revenue Stamp of the Republic of Korea” (87)
Vermeil-IWASAKI, Zenta (Japan) – Traditional Korea – “Imperial Korea 1884-1905” (83)
LEE, Jong-Weon (ROK) – Traditional Korea – “The 1st Granite Paper Regular Series” (80)
KIM, Young-Kil (ROK) – Postal History Korea – “Korea Postal History of the Transition Period under the U.S. Military Government (1945-1948)” (83)
YANG, Bong-Seog (ROK) – Postal History Korea – “Military Post of Korea (1948-1953)” (84)
MACKEOWN, P. Kevin (Hong Kong) – Postal Stationery – “North Korea: Early Postal Stationery” (82)
Gwanglu Philatelic Association (ROK) – Literature (Books, etc., published after 2003) – “Postal History of Chollanamdo. (Korea)” (80)
Large Silver-JEONG, Young-Yong (ROK) – Traditional Korea – “The First Campaign Series Stamps” (76)
KANG, Gyun-Sang (ROK) – Traditional Korea – “The Definitives of the First Photogravure Period” (77)
KIM, Hoon-Dong (ROK) – Traditional Korea – “Korea – Granite Paper Series (1964-1969)” (76)
KIM, Jeong-Sik (ROK) – Traditional Korea – “Semi-Postals of Korea” (78)
LEE, Jae-Seob (ROK) – Traditional Korea – “The First Granite Paper Series (1964-1966)” (75)
NAM, Sang-Wook (ROK) – Traditional Korea – “The Definitive Stamps for Children’s Savings Series” (78)
AHN, Kwang-Kyun (ROK) – Postal History Korea – “Japanese Machine Cancellations Used in Korea (1920-1045)” (75)
HAN, Hey-Kyoung (ROK) – Revenue – “The Korean Empire & the Republic of Korea’s Revenue Stamps (1905-1952)” (78)
LEE, Hak-Min (ROK) – Youth (13-15 years old) – “Korean Folk Culture” (75)
KIM, Kap-Sik (ROK) – Literature (Books, etc., published after 2003) – “Korean Stamps and How to Collect Korean Stamps. (3rd Edition)” (77)
KOH, Il-Woong (ROK) – Literature (Books, etc., published after 2003) – “Postage Stamp and Its Printing” (76)
Korean Philatelic Center (ROK) – Literature (Journals after 2006) – “Korean Stamp Review” (77)
YOON, Bum-Shik (ROK) – Literature (Journals after 2006) – “Philatelic Years (Korean Postal Stationery Society Journal)” (75)
Silver-An, Young-Su (ROK) – Traditional Korea – “The Definitives of the Third Photogravure Period” (71)
KAMIKO, Kazunari (ROK) – Traditional Korea – “The First Granite Paper Series (1964-1966)” (70)
LEE, Jae-Seob (ROK) – Traditional Korea – “The First Granite Paper Series (1964-1966)” (70)
SHIN, Jeum-Sik (ROK) – Traditional Korea – “3rd Korea Photogravure Definitive Stamps” (70)
LEE, Dong-Sik (ROK) – Postal Stationery – “The Korean Postal Cards (1953-1990)” (74)
PARK, Jung-Won (ROK) – originally, Aerophilately, transferred to Traditional Korea – “Korea Airmail Stamps” (72)
NAITO, Yosuke (Japan) – Literature (Books, etc., published after 2003) – “Modern History of Korea: A Philatelic Reconstruction of 60 Years” (73)
Silver Bronze-JO, Suck-Hoon (ROK) – Traditional Korea – “The Definitives of the Fourth Photogravure Period” (68)
Busan Philatelic Club (ROK) – Literature (Journals after 2006) – “The Stamp Culture” (65) Bronze-KIM, Jong-Chul (ROK) – Traditional Korea – “Basic Rate 190 won Period Definitive Postage Stamps” (61)
One-Frame Exhibits (no medals awarded) (The highest score assigned for one-frame exhibits was 87.)
KIM, Jong-Chul (ROK) – Traditional – “Buddhist Image Letter Sheet” (67)
KIM, Tak-Chung (ROK) – Traditional – “Cheonmado Express Postal Cards” (70)
PARK, Seung-Lang (ROK) – Thematic – “Korean National Flag – Taegeugi” (61)
**NOTE: Thematics, across the board, was extremely popular at this show. They are included in this list, however, only when the topic applies specifically to Korea.
There is such an incredible amount of information here that, to the best of my knowledge, has never appeared in print, and exhibits are hard to read given the format, and many people are not able to get to shows. I sincerely hope that some of these exhibitors will be willing to share their extensive knowledge with us in KP.
It is interesting to note the large number of exhibits that were in the Thematic area, and such exhibits seemed to do extremely well. But there were also categories where it was clear that it was very difficult to get a high score, with Revenues, Youth, and Literature at the top of the list. I don’t know if this is as a result of jury bias, or if the criteria used in the judging create this outcome. Within each category, though, it doesn’t seem reasonable for only low scores, especially in an international show! Both of the Korean revenue exhibits were fantastic, yet they failed to achieve a commiserate grade. There were also some excellent books that did not attain a high score. Likewise, postal history exhibits scored much higher than traditional philately. I also observed a clear correlation between age of the subject, cost of acquiring the material, and the size of the score.
I know that, after every show, there is this controversy about whether it is the juries or the criteria that lead to what appears to be a clear bias. I was also amazed that exhibitors’ names were shown on each exhibit during the judging period. One must ask what impact this might have on judging, e.g., a Japanese name with Korean jurors. I am accustomed professionally to a blind refereed process, and this seems to be the kind of approach that should be used in philatelic exhibition judging.
Seoul, August 4
Today was the last day of the show. There was nothing special planned, but I thought I would do one more round of the show, see if there were any more goodies, and get my Korean money changed so I wouldn’t have to worry about it at the airport.
The exhibition hall was really dead, with a number of booths already closed up, and others were clearly in the process of packing up in anticipation of closing up. Dealers and postal agencies were not happy with the attendance at the show, especially of “serious collectors,” though the serious collectors were also telling me that there was no “serious material” to be had.
I did pick up an extra copy of the catalogue and the Palmares to donate to the KSS library. I also picked up some copies of the children’s notepads that were being given out to children. I thought they would be coloring books, which might have had some appeal to the children, but they turned out only to be empty notepads with the show’s logos on it. Perhaps it was intended to be used by the children as a stamp album. It’s difficult to see how this would motivate children to stamp collecting. (See Figure 35 for the cover.)
Post Office Operations
I did pick up two booklets that I had not seen before. Both deal with different aspects of the operations of the post office. They are quite technical and not of much interest to me, but I thought that they would be useful to those who have such interest if they were available through the KSS library, so I will be sending these to the library: Korea POSTNET, and Directory Korean Postal Industry.
As it was close to 3 p.m., the advertised time for the closing ceremony, I hung around for a while to see what it would bring. Succinctly, it didn’t! At 3 p.m., they simply closed the doors and began tearing down the exhibits. When I asked about the closing, I was told that it simply wasn’t going to be held.
I really enjoyed visiting with Kevin and Taizo and viewing their exhibits, as well as some other really outstanding exhibits, not only from Korea, but from other countries, as well. I enjoyed the interaction with others who share my interest and frustrations with philately. I appreciated the warm customer service from the young women at the front reception desk. I appreciated the time that several people gave me for interviews. And I really enjoyed the meal at the banquet!!
On the other hand, I was frustrated that there was such a gap in information available, and an even greater gap in materials in English. There was a clear message that Koreans were more welcome than foreign guests, e.g., the stamp collecting classes were offered in Korean only, and the materials were all in Korean. I frequently wished that there was more explanation available about the events, their locations, and how they would be handled, e.g., the signing by the designers. I also found it discouraging to see my area of interest (i.e., Korean revenues) represented by such wonderful material that I can only dream of, yet to see them score much lower than they deserved. It’s clear that I am never going to move into an exhibitor status with my collection! It was also discouraging to see the attendance, and to hear over and over that this is what is happening to philately all over the world. Even when children come into collecting, they seldom are graduating to philatelists. So it raises huge questions about who is going to buy all of these wonderful collections in the future and how they will be maintained for history. It also raises questions for those who hope that their stamp collections will be their investment for their retirement!
Am I glad I came? Absolutely. Will I try to return for the next PHILAKOREA? God willing, I’ll be here. But I hope I’m not the only one! The next FIAP show will be next year in Bangkok. I might even be there!
As I reach the end of my journal, I realize that there are still some materials related to children that I have not shared. First, there were many efforts to engage them in fun activities, even if they were unrelated to philately. There was, for example, a maze. There was also a magic show and clowns Figure 36. They also had characters representing the mascot for the show wandering around the show for pictures Figure 37. The show, as with most shows, also provided a passport so that children could go from booth to booth purchasing cheap stamps to put into their passport and have them postmarked. The goal, of course, was to complete their passport with stamps from every agency represented Figure 38.
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