For a Hard-to-Lick Approach, Try Stamps With a Personal TouchChoi Sun-cheol, 82, has lived alone in Bundang ever since his son and daughter moved to Canada and Australia, respectively. Mr. Choi likes to do things the traditional Korean way. Instead of sending e-mail, Mr. Choi prefers the tactile pleasure of writing "real" letters, written on "real" paper, arriving in "real" envelopes. And he uses specially designed postage stamps, with a picture of him and his wife. "I believe my son and daughter would love to see those stamps showing my face," Mr. Choi said.
One full set of 20 "Special Postage Stamps Only for You," which came out last April, costs 7,000 won ($5.40). Compared to regular stamps which cost 2,600 won, these custom-made stamps are 260 percent more expensive. But people have enthusiastically greeted this new service of the National Post Office. The Ministry of Information and Communication expects to make 20 billion won this year alone from the custom stamps. Every day, more than 25 people come and ask for the service. On Aug. 16, there was even a special exhibition for these stamps, with 120 participants in Bundang.
"This project was designed to boost people's declining interest in writing and mailing actual letters instead of using quick e-mails," explained Ha Young-gyun, a manager of the National Post Office.
To use these specially designed postage stamps, you need to use ordinary stamps along side － 20 stamps form one full set. "Anyone who brings at least 7,000 won and a picture is welcome," Mr. Ha said. If you order more than 10 sets, you can get a discount according to an established standard.
There are four categories of sets － love, congratulations, gratitude and birthdays. When you submit any pictures (size does not matter), you can get the special stamps in 15 days, at every post office nationwide. "Of course, pictures portraying something outrageous or something that ran against people's values or were critical of the government would not be allowed," Mr. Ha said.
These stamps are favored not only for personal purposes, but for other reasons. Some businessmen print the logo of their companies on the stamps for extra publicity. A lawyer, Han Byeong-chae, likes this method. "To post these stamps with my face is much more useful than distributing my name cards," Mr. Han said.
Also, some people like to see precious memories reborn as stamps. Kang Sang-won, 48, a housewife, made a stamp out of a 50-year-old photo of her parents who had passed away. One of the most popular methods is chosen by couples searching for creative ways to express their love.
Mr. Ha of the National Post Office said, "At first, I expected this project might make 1 billion won, but it has made much more. We are trying to improve the provided service by changing the designs to be more diverse and more adorable." For more information, call 02-1300 (directly connected to the post office).
by Chun Su-jin
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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