Spring has arrived! Looking out from our second-floor den, I am greeted by hundreds of pink and white dogwood tree blossoms glimmering in the sun. Meanwhile, our tulips are stretching their necks as high as they can and the budding azaleas signal that they are poised to join in. This particular spring brings not only the rejuvenation of life, but our society as well. After a long winter slumber, the Korea Stamp Society has sprung back to life!
KSS Affairs: What better place to begin than with the KSS 50th Anniversary stamp. Doesn’t it look great? Kudos to our editor, Gary McLean, for having them made and mailed with the last issue of Korean Philately. This spring also brings with it the election of KSS officers. With at least one of our board members planning to step down for health reasons, I encourage you to raise your participation in KSS to the next level! Being a KSS officer is only as much of a time commitment as you would like it to be. Rather, it is more a symbol of your dedication to promoting and participating in our society. Elections are meant to be contested, so do consider running for a position. One bit of good news that I am pleased to report is that thanks to our steadily improving financial condition, we are in the final stages of approving a reduction in the KSS annual dues of 10-20 percent, making your membership dues an even better value. Our secretary-treasurer, John Talmage will provide all the details in his next mailing.
KSS Meetings: I am currently organizing KSS gatherings at NAPEX `03 (in Northern Virginia) from June 6 to June 8 and at STAMPSHOW `03 in Columbus, Ohio from August 7 to10. Do let me know if you will be able to attend. My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Our office moved, so my new snail mail address should appear in the inside cover of KP. One of my goals at Stampshow is to finally meet our indefatigable web page manager, Harold Penn. Our meeting presentation topic for this year will be “Korean Stamps and the World Wide Web.” Hopefully Harry will be able to chip in!
Member Meeting: I had the distinct pleasure of meeting one of our European members, Prof. James A. Grayson of Sheffield University at the Association for Asian Studies in New York City in March. Instead of talking about philately, we discussed our plans to hold a second conference together at Sheffield, hopefully this fall.
Korea Stamps in the News: The 100th anniversary of Korean Immigration in the United States this past January was marked by a stamp combining our two flags, as noted in the March 31 issue of Linn’s. This July, the 50th anniversary of the Armistice Agreement, the United States Postal Service will issue the fourth stamp relating to Korea and the third for the Korean War. I also wanted to note that as reported in the last issue of KP, one small indicator that the price and exchange rate reforms launched by North Korea last August are for real is the revaluation of North Korean stamps. The basic domestic postal rate was increased 30 times on August, and according to Linn’s the first revalued stamps were issued in November, with high denomination stamps appearing to raise in price 100 times--still much less than the change in the exchange rate, the price of necessities or wages. I asked one of North Korea’s representatives to the United Nations about the “bold changes” taking place in the economy (he did not use the word “reform”) and he noted that success will depend on economic engagement with the world. The on-going nuclear standoff between the North and the United States virtually guarantees that the reforms will fail.
Philatelic Finds: I have been able to add not one but two new elusive Korean Kingdom/Empire double circle cancels to my collection-Euiju and Hamheung. Both cities are in North Korea, with Euiju’s neighboring city much in the news in recent much with the launch of a special economic zone in Shineuiju. Speaking of Eiju, one my most curious finds is a hand scripted red Tae Han with split circle Euiju postmark on top of the overprint. I have seen more than one, so they appear to be legitimate. Have any of our members seen hand-drawn overprints used in other cities? Speaking of split circles, given that I could be stuck on 19 of the doubles for a very long time, I have turned my attention to split circle cancels. I have found about 50 different ones so far-only 250 to go! I will try to write up and illustrate some of my favorites as time permits.
Travels: I will leave on April 22 for my annual swing through Asia. This time I will start with a talk at Hawaii Pacific University and then a conference with Pacific Forum on the island of Maui. I will then make a bee-line to Okinawa for my first visit to provide American soldiers there with an overview of Korea and the standoff with North Korea. I have been using stamps more and more in my more general presentations, and I always receive positive feedback from participants. I will then meet my wife and daughter in Seoul, and we will all take a tour of Mt. Keumgang in North Korea! A couple of family members will join us, so there will be a hiking team, and a non-hiking team. Since the mountains are the subject of numerous Korean stamps and even one Japanese stamp, I will provide a full report the next KP. Hopefully I will be able to visit a North Korean post office!