Stamps: Nature, Places


Published in Juche 99 (2010) / by Korea Stamp Corporation

진달래 / Rhododendron mucronulatum / Chindallae

This painting shows pink azalea flowers circled by bees, beside a rock upon which two small brown-and-white birds perch. The momentary blooming of azaleas signals spring’s arrival in Korea, and thus the flowers have long been artistic symbols of beauty, its rebirth and its transience. As the story goes, upon Kim Il-sung’s return from Manchuria in May 1939, he and his officers were overwhelmed by transcendent feelings of home upon seeing the mountainous landscape blanketed in the pink flowers. Representing “the spring of liberation,” azaleas remained the floral symbol of North Korea until 1964, when the magnolia [목란; mong’nan] was officially designated national flower. The vertical writing to the right displays the lyrics to a song composed in 1962 by Kim Jung-il, dedicated to the memory of his mother Kim Chong-suk (1917-1949), whose ephemeral life and simple beauty are reminiscent of the azalea. Below is a literal translation of the verse:

English translation of “Azaleas”:

How come you are so beautiful, is it because the sunshine is warm? / Blossoming azaleas tell of spring / Everlasting flowers, today, tomorrow / Azaleas, azaleas, azaleas of Joseon

Available in the online collection on Luna.

Commemoration of BIRDPEX 2010 in Answerp

Published in Juche 99 (2010) / by Korea Stamp Corporation

안트워피아 2010 국제 우표 전람회 기념 / Commemoration of the international philatelic exhibition on the theme of birds BIRDPEX 2010 in Answerp / Ant'ŭwŏp'ia 2010 Kukche Up'yo Chŏllamhoe kinyŏm /

This stamp commemorates the International Philatelic Exhibition on the theme of birds at the BIRDPEX expo of 2010 in Answerp (Belgium) from April 9th to 12th. North Korean stamps have become increasingly popular with stamp dealers and collectors from around the world. Since the spread and diversification of the country’s stamps in the early 1970s and 1980s, North Korea has remained an active participant in, and contributor to, stamp exhibitions overseas. This sheet shows an idyllic scene of an imaginary nature preserve; it features four stamps of different species of brown bird, three of whom are indigenous to Korea (all but the Pernis apivorus or European Honey-buzzard [middle top]), a swinging orangutan and an elephant wading in a pool.

Available in the online collection on Luna.

Spring on the Hill

Published in Juche 82 (1993) / by Korea Stamp Corporation

동산 의 봄 / Spring on the hill / Tongsan ŭi pom

This work entitled "Spring on the hill" was painted in the 18th century by an unknown artist. A variation of the Joseon dynasty (1392-1892) landscape style, it shows a mountain range rising from a deep fertile gully and stream. In the foreground, a tree spreads green leaves and red flowers while birds coast overhead and waves cascade into moss-coated rocks.

Available in the online collection on Luna.


Published in Juche 100 (2011) / by Korea Stamp Corporation

토끼 / Rabbits / T'okki

Animals constitute an entire genre of North Korean stamp, assembled in the book “Animals on Stamps” [t’ongmul up’yo; 동물 우표]. The editors of this collection describe the stamps as a way to see the animals within their constantly changing natural environment, partaking in everyday acts of survival and procreation. Here, we see rabbits of varying age and color beneath a lilac tree, depicted with storybook-like detail.

Available in the online collection on Luna.


Published in Juche 51 (1962) / by Korea Stamp Corporation

너구리 / Racoon / Nŏguri

This animal stamp is one of the earliest held by the East Asian Collection at the University of Chicago Library. Based on the minimal color scheme and lack of textual content, we are able to observe the extent to which North Korean stamp designs have developed across history. In this relatively simple two-color drawing, a brown raccoon sits on a bed of green grass.

Available in the online collection on Luna.