New stamp issued to mark Hangul Day
“Usually, we issue a special stamp to celebrate every 50th and 100th anniversary,” said Lee Gi-seog, chief postage stamp designer, who was responsible for the Hangul Day stamp. Hangul special stamps were issued in 1946 to celebrate the day’s 500th anniversary and again in 1996 for the 550th anniversary. So, why again this year?
“Thanks to the development of technology, broken languages, such as Internet slang or SMS language that originated to save keystrokes, are not only used in the cyber world but also in the real world. It also seems that fewer people appreciate Hangul,” said Mr. Lee. That’s why the stamp review board, which decides which stamps to issue each year, decided to issue a new Hangul stamp, he added.
As the younger generation increasingly uses shortened versions of Korean as they chat on the Internet or text message via cell phones, communication problems have sometimes sprung up between generations. For example, the younger generation has invented a word, anseup, which is not in a dictionary. The word is an abbreviation of a phrase that literally translates as, “eyeballs have become moistened,” meaning, “I’m crying.”
“We don’t expect many people to get the background idea of this stamp or to think over Hangul’s importance simply because the stamp was issued,” Mr. Lee continued. “But that’s part of the stamp’s educational role and, in the future, our descendants may recognize our current social issue through the stamp.”
The promotion of Hangul Proclamation Day to a national day also affected the decision to issue a special stamp, said Kim Jae-hong, director of the postage stamp team at Korea Post.
Mr. Lee said that he took the principles of Hangul creation as his design motif. Hangul was created by King Sejong in 1446. The five basic consonants are abstract drawings of each speech organ and the other consonants are derived by adding strokes to the basic letters. The three basic vowels represent heaven, earth and man.
Mr. Lee also penned the price of the stamp in Hangul, not in Arabic numerals, to further emphasize Hangul. It is priced at 220 won (23 cents), the domestic standard letter postage. The words that indicate that the stamp is a special one to commemorate the 560th anniversary of Hangul Day are also written in pure Korean without any Chinese characters. The year of issue was written in Arabic figures and the nation’s name in English, to meet the standards of the Universal Postal Union.
“I drew Ursa Major and Ursa Minor in the background in order to make the stamp also attractive to philatelists who collect stamps of constellations,” said Mr. Lee.
Previous special stamps for Hangul Proclamation Day also used Korean consonants and vowels as their base. One created in 1996 focused on the letters solely without having any background design. It was sold at 150 won. Another issued in 1946 marks the price, 50 jeon (a former unit of Korean currency), both in Korean and Arabic figures. The Korean letters are written on a scroll and around the paper, Korea’s national flower ― the mugunghwa or rose of Sharon ― and pens are drawn.
“Usually, 95 percent of special stamps that are issued to commemorate a day are sold within two days,” said Mr. Kim. That doesn’t mean that they are valuable enough to be treated as investments. “The value of Hangul special stamps issued in 1946 would be around 220 won, [the price of this year’s Hangul stamp],” Mr. Kim said. He added that the 150 won stamp issued in 1996 would currently be traded among collectors for about 170 to 180 won.
The value of Korean postage stamps is not as high as it used to be, he said, as the number of collectors has decreased and the number of stamps issued at any one time has increased.
by Park sung-ha
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