Stamps in the period of feudal Joson dynasty
The stamp issuing in the feudal Joson dynasty, the last feudal state in Korea, started with the positive activities of the enlightenment group that emerged as a new political force in the 1870s.
The enlightenment group led by Kim Ok Gyun (1851-1894) had conducted the reformist activities with an eye to repulsing foreign invasion, defend national sovereignty, reform the feudal system and develop the country in a modern way. As part of such activities, efforts were made to establish a new postal system.
Hong Yong Sik (1855-1884), the then postmaster general, took the lead in modernizing the postal system.
Thanks to the efforts of the enlightenment group Ujongsa, the public department responsible for postal service, was set up in 1882 and Ujongchongguk, or the country’s Post Office, was established in 1884 to supervise and control the new postal system. On October 1 in lunar calendar the same year (November 18 in solar calendar) Munwi stamps (mun was the then monetary unit) were issued for the first time in the country, signalling the start of the modern postal service.
In accordance with the plan to sell Munwi stamps in keeping with the inception of the Post Office five kinds of Munwi stamps (5 mun, 10 mun, 25 mun, 50 mun and 100 mun) had been ordered to be printed, but by October 1, the inaugural day of the Post Office, only 5 mun and 10 mun stamps arrived in Korea. Until October 19 that year they were used in Seoul and Inchon.
On October 17, 1884 the enlightenment group took advantage of the ceremony for the completion of the building of the Post Office to stage the Kapsin coup but in vain. As a result the Post Office was shut down. The remaining 25 mun, 50 mun and 100 mun stamps were delivered to Korea in early 1885. Therefore, 5 mun and 10 mun stamps out of five Munwi stamps were used for 19 days and the rest were not put into public use as they remained unissued.
For ten years since Queen Myongsong’s clan reassumed power stamps had failed to be issued. On June 1 (July 22 in solar calendar), 1895, a year after the enforcement of the Kabo reform, four Thaeguk stamps were issued with the resumption of postal service.
On October 12, 1897 the name of the country “Josonguk” (State of Korea) was changed and on October 14 that year the four Thaeguk stamps overprinted with the characters “Taehan” were issued and in 1899 two Thaeguk stamps were surcharged to be used as 1 phun stamps for newspaper postal service. Between 1901 and 1903 four kinds of phun stamps were surcharged to change their value to jon.
Between January 1900 and May 1901 fourteen Plum Blossom stamps designed by the Korean painter Ji Chang Han were issued.
On October 18, 1902 a stamp was issued to mark the 40th anniversary of the accession of Emperor Kojong, the 26th king of the feudal Joson dynasty, to the throne. On June 1, 1903 thirteen Falcon stamps with different denominations were issued and put on sale nationwide to promote international postal interchange and philately.
But in April 1905 the country was deprived of its right to postal service by Japan and the Korean stamps in public circulation at the time were allowed to be used only until August 31, 1909 and they were used together with the Japanese stamps.
As seen above, in over 20 years between 1884 and 1905, forty-four kinds of stamps (the three unissued stamps excluded and ten overprinted stamps included) were issued and used in the period of the feudal Joson dynasty and due to the Japanese military occupation of Korea the postal service in the country came to a stop.