I am writing this to you on Christmas Day, 2007—our first back in our Virginia house. My daughter didn’t get her wish for a White Christmas, but tomorrow I will take her to her grandmother’s house in Boulder, Colorado, where it has been snowing like crazy.
KP: I am very pleased to report that thanks to Gary McLean’s valiant efforts and the support of John Talmage and other members, we are almost caught up with Korean Philately. Above all else, I would like to wish our former president, Bill Collyer, a speedy recovery. I must say I thoroughly enjoyed reading the last two issues and learned a great deal. I especially liked the articles about Korean forces in Vietnam and Stanley Kim’s explanation about the first flight covers for Lufthansa’s Frankfurt-Seoul flight. Stanley did not note how long the flight took, but with the stop in Anchorage, it must have been far longer than the 10-hour non-stop flight now, which I have taken several times. I also see that Stanley, our former librarian, is now living just a few miles from me. I hope he will drop me a line soon. I last met him at PACIFIC 97 some ten years ago!
I also found the articles on North Korean stamps and the new North Korean stamp catalogue to be informative. The letter from the North Korean postal official about the exclusion of a purged North Korean official (Scott #50) was a classic example of North Korean obfuscation! I was impressed to learn about the publication of Japanese Philately’s Cumulative Index. I hope it can serve as both a model and inspiration for our own tome. Might it be possible to reproduce in KP the two pages that pertain to Korea? I am sure that would be of great benefit to our membership. My only foray into this collecting area is classic Korean stamps with Japanese cancels. I must have more than 100 now, with a Cheju Island cancel one of my more recent and rare finds.
I would also like to tip my hat to the University of Sheffield’s James Grayson for helping to instill some British-style order to our Romanization of Korean. I completely agree that the McCune-Reischauer System is the best out there, but I have been guilty of laziness in not using diacritical marks and tend to fall back on using the Ministry of Education’s system, which leads to amusing words like “Dog Rib Moon” as the Romanization for Independence Gate.
During my last trip to Seoul, I was able to obtain two essential books to the study of classic Korean stamps. Both are by the famous Chosun Ilbo political cartoonist Kim Sung-hwan (known to most Koreans by his penname Kobau). The first is a hardback published in 1984 under the title, A Short History of the Postal Service in Imperial Korea. What I like so much about the book is its focus on cancels—many I have never seen before, on or off cover. The second is a more slim paperback published in 1987. It has the advantage of much more of a narrative and includes many original cartoons of famous people and reproductions of cancels and maps by the author himself. Only 500 copies were made of each book, so it is hard to find and not cheap, but worth every penny! I met Mr. Kim briefly at the stamp art exhibit I attended last spring. I hear that he is trying to sell his collection, but the price is higher than the value of my house! I’ll try to write a more detailed review of these books as time permits.
Philatelic finds: I missed my shot at some great cancels on eBay due to computer problems, but I have managed to find some interesting things, such as the Scott pages for North and South Korea carefully removed from the Scott catalogue for a few dollars each, saving me the cost of buying the whole volume or copying the pages at a library in black and white. I also managed to find a sheet of the 2007 North-South summit stamp for less than the face value of the stamps, including postage! Finally, I found a wonderful postcard from the postmaster of the Korea, VA post office explaining the origins of the post office’s name. I will write that up in a future issue of KP!
The New Job: It is both exhilarating and exasperating to be heading a one-man NGO, the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (I am taking “U.S.” out of the name in January). I find myself having to spend too much time on fundraising to make sure I can get paid next year, but being my own boss for the first time is wonderful. Best of all, I can continue to do research on North Korea. In the fall my committee published a handbook, “Legal Strategies for Protecting Human Rights in North Korea.” The press coverage wasn’t as extensive as some of my ICG reports, but it let the world know that the committee was alive. Our next report will be on the plight of North Korean women in China. Then I will initiate a series of new reports. My first trip of the year will be for a conference at the Chatham House in London. I will then make a side trip to Morocco to see a new part of the world. The ticket from London was only $250! I was invited to teach at Yonsei University in the summer, so that will give me an excuse to spend more time in the country I love to study and stamps I love to collect!
All the Best in 2008!